Meet the Partners: Sally Nelson from Future First

Meet the Partners: Sally Nelson from Future First

On Monday 8th of March, Northern Power Women will be broadcasting our NPWLive event. To kickstart the day, Northern Power Women have partnered with Future First to provide a carousel networking session, allowing young attendees, particularly those at the start of their careers, to interact and network with industry leaders across the Northern Power Women community. Northern Power Women are thrilled to be collaborating with Future First for the event, and we caught up with Sally Nelson, Chief People Officer at Fidelity International and Future First Trustee, to speak to her about the Future First mission, the impact of the work that they do, and the importance of making the most of networking opportunities. 

Future First work tirelessly to provide state schools across the UK with a “thriving and engaged alumni community”, as Sally described. By providing both online and in-person support to accompany these communities, as well as running workshops and partnering with professional organisations in order to give students an insight into the realities of the world of work, Future First provides the opportunity to “improve students’ motivation, confidence and most importantly life chances”. Sally takes her passion for mentoring and encouragement beyond her role as a Future First trustee, and is something that she actively embodies in her position as Chief People Officer at Fidelity International. Sally stated her belief that “nurturing that self belief and confidence, especially in young people is absolutely vital”, and spoke of the initiatives that Fidelity International had recently taken to become a “truly inclusive organisation”. One such initiative was to recruit apprentices using a cv-less approach, which  “focused (candidates) on solving challenges, demonstrating potential, and not feeling constrained by their backgrounds and where they’ve come from”. Speaking to Sally, the pride she has for the work that she does for both Fidelity International and Future First was tangible, and punctuated her descriptions of the progress that Future First has already made. 

Sally’s enthusiasm for truly diverse and inclusive action was also evident as she spoke of Future First’s aims for the future. Speaking of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, Sally spoke of how Future First’s “mission has become even more important, as everyone knows the UK’s social mobility situation was amongst the worst in Europe even before the pandemic”. After nearly an entire year of remote learning and social isolation, young people across the UK will have suffered a loss of support and motivation that is often taken for granted in an in-person classroom environment. Despite the challenges of the past year, Sally spoke of how Future First have “adapted and innovated and found new and different ways to deliver […] rather like our colleagues in the teaching profession”, by embracing virtual activity as a way of making Future First programmes more accessible than ever before. “We’ve also managed to do online mentoring for over 400 young people since March 2020. In some ways, to that end, the pandemic has actually made it easier for us to connect alumni with young people because our volunteers don’t need to travel to take part in sessions”. 

Building on this period of pivoting and adaptation, Sally spoke of how this translates to an “exciting period of change and growth” for Future First, as the organisation is already busy looking to the future, launching a brand new school network, ConnectEd. Future First are also excited about the release of a second online platform later this year, which has been built in partnership with Northern Power Women, with the purpose of fostering the strong alumni communities that are synonymous with the Future First legacy. 

This legacy is something that Future First are already seeing the tangible effects of, and Sally described just how far reaching this positive impact has spread. “Feedback on our virtual delivery has been overwhelmingly positive so far”, she shared. “We ran two career insight sessions with our partner the Wellcome Trust, and we had 30 students coming along from 3 different schools. Every single participant fed back that they would recommend the session to a friend, and more importantly, that as a result of attending, they were more confident of their ability to get a job in the future”. Sally was also particularly proud to share the details of one of their success stories, a year 10 student who “having attended one of the Future First workshops, said he now realises he can become his best self”; a statement which pays tribute to the amazing work that Future First are doing. “He said what a difference it makes hearing from someone who’s been to the school that he’s been to, because they’re more relatable to his circumstances […] He said he’s more inclined to listen to them than to someone else, and that’s what it’s all about, being relatable role models”. 

The provision of relatable role models is one of our key aims for the NPWLive event, as more than ever, many of us will be in need of mentoring and encouragement to use our voices and be heard. When asked what we can do to empower people to use their voice, Sally spoke of how “it’s more a question of encouraging people to speak up, and giving them the confidence to share their stories around how they’ve been positively impacted”. Sally then went on to share some shocking statistics around just how early young people begin to worry about their working lives. “46% of 11 year olds worry about what job they’ll do as an adult, which rises to an incredible 65% at the age of 15”. Luckily, Future First are working to combat this early on-set of work related worry through the creation of these alumni communities. The need for these communities is highlighted in the fact that “71% of people said that it would be really helpful if they could meet students that went to their school, they could talk to them about what they did after education, and in their jobs”. 

Sally summarised the importance of events such as NPWLive, and the involvement of organisations like Future First, stating that “inequalities don’t just stop because there’s a pandemic. In fact, educational inequality has widened, which is why Future First is delighted to be working with Northern Power Women and sponsoring the carousel networking event. It’s just a great thing to be involved with. Ultimately, NPWLive is all about amplifying voices, creating opportunities, getting everyone to feel like they can get involved and belong. Never have we needed this more, particularly for young people”. 

For more information on how to amplify your own voice, and the voices of others, head to the Northern Power Women website and get involved.  

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