“I would never have though Daniel could work somewhere like this because of our background and where we come from. After this morning I think why not? I think all children can have a chance. It’s been a really interesting and emotional day” – Daniel’s Mum
“He was interested and asked loads of questions, it was lovely to see him doing that. I wouldn’t have thought he’d be able to work somewhere like this, it’s all football or construction, but now we’ve got new ideas.” – Alex’s Mum
“He likes maths, I’d like him to work somewhere like this! It’s been really interesting to learn about the different jobs. I was really shocked to find out that people haven’t’ been to university who work here.” – Christopher’s Mum
School-Home Support (SHS) has been running aspiration mornings with BlackRock for over a year now. The sessions provide an opportunity for some of the children and parents we support to realise that a job in the city can be, in the words of one mum, “part of their world”. It’s always a real pleasure to introduce families to our corporate partners, showing them that their children can get a job in somewhere like BlackRock.
Sally Atherton at BlackRock runs and organises the aspiration mornings which are varied and interactive, giving children the opportunity to learn about investment banking, meet a range people in different roles and of course – enjoy lunch in stunning surroundings. I wanted to reflect on the impact these sessions have on our families and to share some thoughts about the ‘distance travelled’ by parents in just a couple of hours.
Our usual meeting point is Liverpool Street, by the Kindertransport statue just outside the station. This group have travelled into the city from Dagenham, and that in itself is more of a big deal than you may imagine. Many of the families we work with don’t access all that London has to offer; a tube journey to somewhere new is a novelty so there’s already a feeling of anticipation and nervousness. Parents are quiet, and the children’s chatter is very low level.
After introductions and attempts to quickly learn fifteen new names, we’re making our way to BlackRock’s offices in Throgmorton Avenue. Walking into the foyer produces audible gasps from the children and sharp intakes of breath from the parents, and everyone wants to take photos of the building. We queue up to get our badges, and I encourage the children to say hello to reception staff, who are always so welcoming. Next it’s through the glass barriers, with the help of security, and up to the 11th Floor. We’re met by Sally who, really understanding the importance of a warm welcome, smiles, asks the group about their journey and reassures everyone that BlackRock is delighted to have them. It’s these small things that make a difference; tension and anxiety levels drop and you can feel parents and children beginning to relax.
“It so important that parents as well as children are made to feel so welcomed on these visits, and BlackRock take great care to ensure parents feel valued. It’s always such a rewarding experience and makes a real difference to parents’ aspirations. We struggle to find ways to do this through school, so being able to come to BlackRock is a real bonus.” – Karen Watch, SHS Practitioner
Once the planned activities start, everyone’s engaged and having fun! Soon we’re all into playing spoof, learning about pricing decisions through trading tangerines, meeting staff on the trading floor, hearing from new recruits (including employees who haven’t been to university – always a real eye opener for parents), admiring the art, and watching live currency trades.
At this point parents have entirely shifted and are more much comfortable in the corporate environment. Realising that actually normal people work here, they are relaxed and confidently asking questions, encouraging their children and helping them to understand the relevance of visiting BlackRock.
The journey back to Liverpool Street has a very different feel to it. Parents and children are animated, full of ideas about what’s possible and buzzing with some significant penny drops. The children usually do a presentation to their Headteacher and speak about their visit at a school assembly, but no-one wants to return to school because it would have been “fun to stay all day!”
When you’ve never been into the city, walked around a corporate environment or had the opportunity to realise there are so many more roles available than lawyers and traders, it’s not surprising that parents feel the city isn’t “part of their world”. The comments from the parents who came to BlackRock last week are testament to the value of aspiration mornings. Thank you, BlackRock, for all your continued support and encouragement. It makes the world of difference.