We spoke to Marley, 22, about his experiences with Career Ready, one of our charity partners:
I was living at home in Woolwich in Southeast London when I first came across Career Ready – seven of us in a three bedroom house. One of my brothers causing a lot of stress for my mum. I was struggling with school and got into trouble and was excluded.
Later in my educational journey, I went to Career Ready’s support sessions after school to help get focused – there were three pillars, masterclasses offering enhanced transferable skills like communication and presenting skills, and working in a team. Then there was the possibility of a paid internship, and a mentor.
Around my estate there aren’t many people in office jobs, it’s more manual labour oriented. Some of the internships were in Canary Wharf which you can see from where I live - but I hadn’t grown up thinking I could work there. Through the scheme, I began to slowly see, as a young 16-year-old, what was out there. I really wanted to be the first one in my family to go to uni and experience it like I'd seen on TV - to go away to another city and try a new way of living.
I secured a paid internship working in an IT department as a business analyst. All of us interns made such a connection it was a real community - and we’re still in contact. I thought I left poverty with that internship pay check - I took all my family to Pizza Hut, bought my sisters presents and I generally thought, ‘Yep, I'm quite wealthy now’. And then the realisation came in that money stops and it doesn't keep growing. But, it was a crazy feeling, earning all that money and developing skills, plus a network.
Career Ready found me a mentor, Gerardo, who’s an amazing soul. He's from Venezuela and has worked in America too. He would help me with my A level practice papers, he taught me not only about academia and the workplace, but just so much about life. And he gave me one of the best references I've ever had in my life, and I still have on my phone to this day when applying for university!
I went to Sussex University to study Business and Management. One of the most pivotal things was when someone at my university put me forward for a Stephen Lawrence scholarship at Freshfields Law Firm, for a program for people of Black heritage. Although I didn’t get it, I got through to the last stage and just seeing an assessment centre, the process and being around 50 to 70 young black people of all complexions, shapes, sizes was so uplifting and empowering, especially in a very elite environment like Freshfields.
A few weeks later I got an offer to go to study entrepreneurship at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore on a scholarship and I was smiling that much! Noone on my father’s East African side or through my mum’s white British side, had ever been to South Asia – it was a real first in my family. The teaching, the country, and the people I met out there – they will all stay with me for the rest of my life. It changed me, I can’t advocate enough for an experience like that.
I'd had so much work experience during undergrad, not through me being extremely talented but because I put in the hard work and applied myself. And though I got a 100+ rejections, I knew I just needed two or three ‘yeses’.
I was interning at Spencer Stewart as part of 10,000 Black Interns when I was fortunate enough to get onto the civil service Fast Stream, which I’d heard about through a diversity scheme in second year of university. I got put in the Department of Education which I wanted, but two weeks before it started I got moved to Defra working on Northern Ireland Policy. As a young boy from Southeast London, who’s a big advocate for education, culture and society - it wasn’t my thing, and it was a stressful ten months – despite having a great manager.
This role at adidas, based in communities and organically impacting people's lives, is much more of a community facing role, supporting the adidas Football Collective and #MerkyFC. In the future I'd love to work either within social impact or alternatively in the Department for Education, to try and innovate around what we offer students and take a more holistic approach to education. But on top of that, I'd love to have my own nonprofit organisation - like a community pot fund for Londoners and grass root organisations.
I generally feel like, because of Career Ready, I'm five years ahead of where I would have been. The program, the internships in the City, my mentor and the network masterclasses - plus being on the Youth Advisory Board - it has really impacted me in a way that is difficult to put into words. For me, essentially, it gave me the opportunity to be socially mobile and gave me the mindset to lift others up as I climb.
Career Ready partners with employers and educators across the UK to invest in young people from diverse backgrounds. It was founded in 2002 by leading business figures with a mission: to boost social mobility by empowering young people and giving their talents a platform to flourish.
Since then, they’ve grown across the UK and supported over 150,000 young people in areas of need, from Essex to Elgin.