On 14th November, at the invitation of Emmanuel Ayola (GG’s Head of Corporate Relations), I attended the launch of the 2020 “Uni Genius” programme; held at Canary Wharf estate in the impressive Global HQ of Barclays. Along with UCL, Barclays are long term partners in the “Uni Genius” programme which is aimed at A-Level students and provides selected GG’s Geniuses with the skills they need to thrive in the world of work and to help open their eyes to a much wider range of STEM opportunities for the future.
I arrived early and was able to meet briefly with Tony Sewell (Chairman and Founder of GG) and Leanna Dixon (Programme Manager & Social Media Director); along with a number of the youngsters; many of whom were naturally excited to attend the launch event and to share its splendid location.
To qualify, all applicants must be Year 12 students of Black African or Caribbean descent. They come from the non-selective state secondary school sector, having each achieved a minimum of 5 grades at A*, 9, 8 or 7 at GCSE. They must be attending a non-fee paying sixth form or college in London and be set to study at least two Science Technology, Engineering or Maths (STEM) subjects at A level. This year well over 200 such applicants had been received, screened and intensively interviewed to arrive at the 50 or so at the launch; of whom some 70% were girls.
Also attending the event, as mentors and speakers, were some impressive Year 13s who talked about their experiences to date and the way in which the programme, including work experience placements, had added to their confidence in obtaining top University places; including Oxbridge. An Outreach Officer from Leeds University gave an inspiring talk about opportunities “Up North”. He mentioned a recent STEM fair and research opportunities. The GG structure also provides access for “Uni Genius” alumni and one such graduate, who had just finished a four year Biochemistry degree at Bath, added to the vision of what could be in store for the new contingent.
A Panel of five students, currently in their second year of the Uni Genius programme and studying an interesting range of A level subjects, ably fielded a series of questions from the audience. This added weight and some nice humorous touches to what had been said during the preceding presentations about the opportunities available to the new contingent.
I found this to be an inspiring evening aimed to “bring out the best”. Apart from work experience (again some excellent feedback from Year 13s), students will be required to attend a series of workshops and Masterclasses; including some held at GG’s HQ in Victoria. The “Uni Genius” programme requires self- belief and determination; noting that it’s “three strikes and out” and is clearly far from an easy ride. The levels of support appear to be excellent and great emphasis is made on the benefits of networking as a “family”, both within in the group and beyond.
For our part, FCTF plan to establish a Travel and Subsistence fund for Year 12 students undertaking Work Experience during a Half Term or other vacation periods. Fuellers are also invited to offer work experience opportunities within their own companies or with others with whom they have useful connections.
Neville A. Brown
14th November 2019