Through 5 STAR Futures, we aim to enable aspirational young people to build their confidence and gain the employability skills needed for life after education. We partner with schools in areas where there are high levels of unemployment and a large proportion of the residents are not in education, employment or training (NEET). We have been working alongside All Hallows RC High School in Salford for five years and the relationship continues to strengthen, with former pupils now applying for roles within our business as legal apprentices.
The awards evening in March each year is an opportunity for the pupils to demonstrate to their teachers, friends and family how far they have come since starting the six-month programme by delivering a two-minute speech, which for most of the pupils was their first time speaking in front of so many people. Through workshops on confidence and communication, resilience and aspiration, the once-shy pupils develop a sense of self-belief and learn all about the world of work with the help of a broad range of volunteers from across our business – including partners, paralegals, HR professionals, cashiers, trainee solicitors and many more.
Sean Monks, Senior Solicitor in our national Commercial Insurance department, and leader of the programme in Manchester, said: "It is hugely important for businesses like ours to work with schools to make sure that young men and women entering working life have the skills they need to do well. For me, we should all (not just law firms) be putting in the effort to remove any perception that a young person's future is predetermined by what their parents do for a living. I am immensely proud of the work that we do through 5 STAR Futures, and the pupils this year – as in previous years – have been excellent ambassadors for their school and peers.
Gail Taylor, our Diversity & Community Engagement Manager, said: "The speeches from the students were exceptional with all of them saying how much 5 STAR had improved their confidence, raised their aspirations and will hopefully in turn help their GCSE grades. One of the young women unbelievably said, 'It made me feel so much more confident because we made a success wall and I ended up putting things on there that I never believed were that important for example, being able to speak three languages - Portuguese, English and Spanish. I wanted to be part of 5 STAR Futures because of the experience and I really wanted to improve my confidence, which I have achieved.' Sean is a real credit to DWF, as are the rest of the 5 STAR coaches and volunteers."
Speaking about the impact of the programme, Paula McIntosh-Kemp, Business Manager at All Hallows RC, said: "We are delighted to be working with DWF on 5 STAR Futures again this year, our fifth consecutive year. The programme goes from strength to strength and grows in popularity with our students each year continuing to offer them a set of skills that are a necessity as they move on into further education and employment. Our students not only learn to recognise and celebrate their successes but they also grow in confidence and in resilience – vital skills for anyone but particularly for those just about to enter the GCSE phase.
"The time and commitment given by the DWF mentors, led by Sean Monks, is making a real difference for those students who take part. We know that they would join us in offering our thanks for your continued support. We are proud to say we have been involved with the 5 STAR Futures programme since the beginning and we celebrate with DWF the recognition the programme has received over those years. We look forward to working with DWF again next year, and for many years to come."