Apr 15, 2019

The route/s to success

Interview prep participants and volunteers
Interview prep participants and volunteers

Since the beginning of the year, over 70 young people joined Drive Forward, eager to achieve their career goals and move forward in life. Yes, they may come out of foster care or have grown up in children’s homes, but they don’t let their past define them and are prepared to take on any challenges that come their way. And so, over the past 4 months, 27 young people have successfully moved into employment, whilst another 25 care leavers have gained valuable work experience.

For some of them, this fantastic success wouldn’t have been possible without your commitment and support. Thank you, for believing in young people!

Keeley, 23

Having lived through years of physical and emotional abuse, a social worker visited Kelley and her mother’s home, and on the same day the 11-year-old girl was placed into care. It took a couple of years before she would be able to trust the people around her, but with the consistent support and love of her foster family, Keeley grew up knowing that there are people who truly care.

Keeley first came to Drive Forward in September last year, after graduating with a degree in Youth Work. Her Employment Consultant Heaven immediately recognised Keeley’s eagerness to advocate for positive change and improvement of the care system. She clearly wants to help other children and young people in care to have better access to opportunities. So, whilst Heaven was helping Keely explore various career paths, she suggested Keeley joined the Drive Forward Policy Forum. Within only a couple of weeks, Keeley became an active member of the group and was admired and valued by her peers. She helped create a shared vision for a more equal society and participated in round tables and consultations informing and educating policymakers about how their work is perceived on the ground.

Keely’s main goal was to work with the youth, this therefore meant that she took full advantage of regular 1-2-1 support sessions with Heaven, who pointed her towards suitable opportunities and introduced her to different companies. One of the proposed opportunities was a full-time Training Assistant role with a financial advice charity in London. Looking at the job spec, Keeley instantly knew that this was the right place for her to develop her skills and kick-start her career.

So, Heaven and her got to work. They perfected her CV, put together a convincing cover letter, and once Keeley got invited to an interview, they practiced her presentation skills. All the hard work paid off and Keeley is now working with young people, including care lavers, to help them effectively manage their money and transition from care into independent living.

Before she could get started making a real difference to young people’s lives, Keeley had to overcome her own challenges, one of which was financial. She had only just moved house and had to manage the expenses that come with such a big step e.g. buying the basics for her own household, getting new carpets fitted etc.

However, regardless of the fact that Keely had savings, due to the fact that she lived in zone 3 and her new workplace was in zone 1, it turned out that Keeley was not prepared to flock out £200 a month to travel to work and back every day.

“I so wanted this job! It was just an unlucky coincidence that it came along at a time where I was a bit tight. I know that I’m strong and independent and I’m sure I would have found some way to make it work, even if that meant taking on a weekend bar job or something. But thanks to Closing the Gap I didn’t have to! It was such a relief when Heaven told me that they would help me. And the job is going really well and I’m learning a lot, so thank you!”

Joe, 26

Joe’s journey with Drive Forward is a unique one, as he is following in the footsteps of his twin brother Peter (whose story you read last year!). Peter, who is now working as a Junior Accounts Executive in a reknowned PR firm in the City, has been working with Drive Forward since 2016, doing work placements in various companies and building his professional networks. His brother Joe, on the other hand, was in a more challenging position at the time. Nevertheless, he picked up on Peters successes and eventually joined us in 2018. Having heard all about the fantastic opportuntities our partners offer to motivated young people, especially in the advertising sector where his brother started out, Joe decided to give the creative industries a shot. He attended an aim Higher Day with our partners at J. Walter Thomposon in Knigthsbrigde and immediate fell in love with the friendly and supporting environment and vibe. Eager to get a foot in the door, it took Joe less than a week to complete the application form and start preparing for the job interview.

On the day, his enthusiasm, motivation and genuine interest in the industry instantly made a lasting impression at J. Walter Thompson and Joe was offered a 2-month internship.

Joe was so happy when he found out that he would be working in their productions department. He knew that this opportunity could help him to truly turn his life around. There was, however, one big challenge lingering over him. Joe lives in Hershem, which is outside London travel zones. The cost of travel into London and back every single day to get to work amounted to approximately £200 per month! When Joe was given his payday, he calculated that until his first paycheck, he would have to spend a total of £340 on travel alone. As a care-experienced young person managing his own household, Joe didn’t have that sort of money. He was thinking about taking out a loan or asking some friends, but quickly realised, that given his past, the chances of him getting a loan were pretty small. Joe was devastated and ready to give up. He couldn’t believe that after all his hard work and effort to get this job, he would have to give it up because of travel.

So, Joe was very pleased, relived and grateful when his brother told him about Closing the Gap and that Drive Forward could help him financially and enable him to take up this fantastic opportunity.

Today, Joe absolutely loves working at J. Walter Thompson:

„I get to work with different departments and try out different things. It’s a very interesting placement and I’m learning new stuff every day!“

For more stories and updates about events and volunteering opportunities please sign up to our mailing list!

Interview prep with HR volunteers
Interview prep with HR volunteers
Jan 15, 2019

New Year - same challenges

Akira playing with office dog Bruce
Akira playing with office dog Bruce

Happy 2019!

January is almost over and most of us will have, either comfortably settled back into our daily routine or are still battling through our ambitious New Year’s resolution. What a blast!

For many of the young people working with us, 2019 is a ticking clock. They may turn 18 soon and have to move out of their foster parent’s home; they may finish university and look for the next step in their careers; they may only be at the early stages of preparing their application to the university of their choice; they may be getting their first independent accommodation this year; they may look to progress in their career and much more.

No matter what ambitious goals our young care-experienced people have set themselves for 2019, together, we can support them and help them succeed! Thank you, for believing in their potential and for being a part of their journey.

Akira, 22 – Ambition, ambition, ambition

“[…] from when I stepped into the building and I spoke to my employers I knew that this could possibly be the place for me.”

When Akira met Heaven, an Employment Consultant at Drive Forward Foundation, at a career’s fare last year, the 22-years old had recently lost her foster mum, quit university, moved into independent living and was struggling to get back on track, emotionally as well financially.

Living on your own is „a very bitter-sweet experience and financially it has taken a toll on me; emotionally that has an effect on you and mentally kind of breaks you.”

Before dropping out, Akira studied for a Master’s degree at the London College of Fashion. Despite all the challenges and setbacks in her life, she never lost hope and was determined to succeed within the creative industries. Even when she had to deal with the loss of her foster mum, just a couple of year after her birth mother passed away, she knew that sitting around waiting for the perfect opportunity wasn’t an option. So, Akira indulged herself in her advocacy work, blogging and freelance work to broaden her portfolio. And for the extra push into the right direction, she got in touch with Drive Forward.

When Heaven first suggested an opportunity with one of our corporate partners, Akira was sceptical. She had gone for jobs before and received lots of rejections, which made her wonder whether this time things would be different. Impressing our partners in the interview, Akira completed a two-weeks internship before being offered a fulltime position.

Now, Akira is a Junior Design Manager at Module Media Studios in the City.

“I oversee the clients and all the work that comes into the office, distribute it and make sure that everyone is on task; have a say in how stuff is designed, how stuff is developed, and really look at the progression of the company and building client and work relationships. And I really enjoy it because it’s a really comfortable environment.”

Without your generous support, Akira’s transition into fulltime employment and a career she genuinely enjoys would have been much harder. You allowed her to fully focus on the job and the task at hand, instead of having to look for the money to cover the cost of travel into the city every day.

Jake, 20 – taking the first step

Jake has only been with Drive Forward for a couple of months. However, his drive and determination to move forward in life, have enabled him to progress quickly.

It’s a series of unfortunate events that lead to Jake spending the past 2 years in prison. Now that he is out, he can’t go back to where he grew up; he doesn’t have a GP or a bank account; and he doesn’t have a regular income.

Jake’s goal for 2019 and beyond is to rebuilt his life, from scratch. He just moved into an area that is completely unknown to him; he doesn’t have any friends and the only people he currently trusts are his Personal Advisor from the Leaving Care Team, and Felix his Employment Consultant here at Drive Forward. From the first meeting onwards, Jake has been keen to engage with Drive Forward and take up as many opportunities as possible. He has been a regular guest at our weekly lunch club, where he met professionals from various corporate partners, who he made a good impression on.

Regarding his career, Jake’s interests lie in construction, security, fitness and healcare. He is very realistic and knows that in order to succeed in life, he needs to put in the effort and work hard. Him and Felix looked at many different options available and found an opportunity that immediately caught Jake’s attention: a traineeship in Fitness Instructing and Personal Training.

The main aim of the 12-weeks program is to give young people vital skills needed to work within the health and fitness industry whilst also giving them hands on experience through work placements.

It is thanks to your vital support, that Jake was able to take up this fantastic opportunity and get to the course on time every day. He is in the final stages completing the course and will soon be ready to take the next step in his career.

For more stories and updates about events and volunteering opportunities please sign up to our mailing list!


Oct 22, 2018

Small change - BIG IMPACT

As the days get shorter and the nights cooler we are once more reminded how much of an impact your support can have on a young person’s life. Over the past months, you have enabled over 20 young individuals to take the next step in their careers, gain invaluable work experience, increase their knowledge, improve their skills and find fulltime sustainable employment. For this, we would like to say a BIG THANK YOU! 

In our last report, we shared the great news with you that our efforts to make corporate partners more aware of the specific circumstances young care-experience people face have paid off. Many of them are now offering to cover young people’s travel and lunch expenses during the time of their placement. Others have even managed to change their payroll procedures in order to be able to pay young people on a fortnightly basis, helping them to ease into a monthly payment schedule. Once again, a well-deserved thank you to all our fantastic corporate partners! 

It is this commitment to improve outcomes for care leavers in London from yourself and our partners, that enable us to do the job we can. And it is also thanks to you, that we’re now able to provide even more support to the young people working with us through the Closing The Gap Fun. For young people from care, having to choose between heating and eating is often the harsh reality, especially in winter. This is why we’ve decided to scrap the fund’s limitation of the first month of work and transform it into a general hardship fund. How can we expect from a young person to fully focus on finding a job if their only concern is how many blankets, jumpers and jackets they can find in order to stay warm in their homes? How can we ask them to perform well, if they’re fighting against constant hunger? We can’t. And we shouldn’t.  

With the changes we’ve put in place, your support will now enable even more young people from care to focus on their career goals and drive forward. 

Joy, 19  - It takes sacrifice to fulfill your dreams 

Joy’s ultimate aim is to be a successful film director. The 19-years old woman is ambitiousdriven and prepared to work hard for her dreamShe enjoys writing scripts and has loads of fantastic ideas for different plotsset-ups and actorsshe loved dark drama independent films and her passion has allowed her to meet brilliant film directors and other professionals in the sector. Joy is determined to network, visit festivals and learn more about the nitty-gritty of the sector and how to gain funding to create a film.  

Joy is aware that it’s going to be a long way before she will be able to realise her goal, but she is certain that it is worth it. She put enormous efforts into writing to production companies and TV stations to gain a placement and increase her insight into production. Her perseverance paid off and Joy was offered a job as a runner with a TV post production company in London. Congratulations! 

However, having no savings in the bank and no financial support from family, Joy worried that the travel to and from work would have a steep impact on her monthly budget. The job itself is only £5,90 per hour with flexible working hours up to 45h a week, but Joy is committed to her goal and willing to sacrifice as much as she can. 

Thanks to your generous support, Joy could accept the job without having to worry about her travel. She gained some valuable experience looking behind the scenes of a post-production company. With this experience on her CV, Joy has now moved on from this position and is eager to find an opportunity with a film production company next year. 

Henry, 22 – small steps to success 

Henry is 22 years old and has already defeated the odds as he has just gone back to uni to complete his degree in Computer Science and Network Communications. He is one of the 6% of care-experienced people going into higher education at the age of 19. 

Having a degree is not enough in today’s job market, not even in a tech field like computer science. What really matters to employers is work experience and the right attitude. Knowing this, Henry was looking for a summer job to complement his studies and gain insight into some of the industries that he wishes to work in later on: financial services, legal and pollical services, marketing and advertising, security, transport, or sales. 

At Drive Forward we appreciate young individuals with a wide spectrum of interests as it allows us to offer them a vast range of work placement and employment opportunities with our dedicated corporate partners. When Henry voiced his goal for the coming weeks, we had just gained a new opportunity with our partners at Lloyds Banking Group. They were offering a 1 week work placement to enable young people to learn more about the workings of daily financial service provision. Henry was very eager to go onto this placement and put a brilliant application together.  

Closing the Gap then enabled Henry to smoothly travel from Zone 4 into the city every day.  

“I cannot even describe how great it was. Every day I spent there was amazing!” - Henriques 

For more stories and updates about events and volunteering opportunities please sign up to our mailing list!


WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.