Hazel Grant is the early years delivery manager at Transport for London. Hazel is responsible for school engagement and community outreach as well as graduate and apprentice recruitment, striving to improve the inclusivity of their opportunities. She has always worked in the education sector, starting out as a maths teacher for Teach First training programme.
“The future of our industry depends on the fresh, innovative thinking of the next generation of transport professionals and working closely with education establishments to bring our school skills activities to more young people.”
Helping schools in areas with the greatest deprivation
I attended the University of St Andrews, studying economics for four years. On graduating, I joined the Teach First training programme as a mathematics teacher. I taught in Bedlington, an ex-mining town in Northumberland for two years. On completing the graduate scheme, I joined Teach First’s graduate recruitment, selection team, assessing candidates to join future cohorts of the graduate intake and leading on the selection process for their STEM internship programme.
In 2017, I moved to Transport for London’s (TfL) graduate and apprentice recruitment team. Following the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, TfL was starting some very exciting work in targeting our outreach to boroughs with the greatest deprivation, and schools and pupils most in need of support. In October that year, I was promoted to manage the team and following a restructure we are now responsible for schools’ outreach and employability of young people, graduate and apprentice recruitment.
Our team works collaboratively with schools, colleges and other organisations to promote STEM careers and in particular the transport industry. We often deliver presentations on our apprenticeship roles and what an apprenticeship is. We also work closely with internal business staff responsible for the day to day management of our apprentices and graduates. We work with them to design an attraction strategy and assessment process for these roles.
Diversity is really important to TfL; we are keen to increase the proportion of underrepresented groups in our own company and in STEM careers and the transport industry.
Innovate TfL is an annual competition which offers the opportunity for groups of young people in Years 12 and 13 to work together to come up with an innovative solution to a real-life TfL challenge. Team members are assigned roles that reflect the real world and work together to produce a solution which links to the Mayor’s Transport Strategy.
Throughout the term-long project, the teams are supported by TfL volunteers called “Innovators” to produce their innovate ideas. The entries are judged by a panel of senior TfL staff and the four top-scoring teams are asked to present their ideas at a final event before a winner is chosen.
Having run this programme for five years it’s crucial that despite the challenges of COVID-19, we remain absolutely committed to running these programmes.
The future of our industry depends on the fresh, innovative thinking of the next generation of transport professionals and working closely with education establishments to bring our school skills activities to more young people.
Increasing female participation
We work closely with over 250 target schools across London. Any school or college can take part, but we do focus on working with schools in areas with higher than average deprivation, and girls’ schools to encourage STEM engagement which we believe is vital from a young age. This helps to work towards our aim in making TfL’s workforce representative of the diverse city which we serve.
43 schools entered this year with the final four entries consisting of two all-female teams. We have noticed many more of the all-female teams coming up with brilliant engineering/technology-based ideas such as last year’s winning idea which proposes the introduction of a fob device designed to be used by wheelchairs users.
In 2017-2018, we saw 29% female participation which has risen to 59% in 2019-2020. It is important that we continue to encourage female participation as it gives exposure to STEM activities which in return can help make informed career choices.
The key points we use to keep innovating in this space
- We want to continue encouraging STEM learning in schools and providing advice and guidance by delivering workshops and exploring different forms of technology, often working with our colleagues in tech and data to showcase the work they are doing to make the work seem more “real”;
- Understanding that a one size fits all solution doesn’t work for everyone so ensuring we are building partnerships with schools to understand their needs and challenges and offering a collaborative approach;
- Using our data to help improve our understanding of how we can increase diversity in our apprentice and graduate recruitment. We have seen an increase in female and BAME hire representation as a result of redesigning our website showcasing our apprentices with pictures and videos. We also offered more contact during the recruitment process including a helpful Q&A session before the assessment centres to make all candidates feel more supported.
The post-pandemic world will impact young careers so we must look at the bigger picture as to how we can support within this space by keeping up to date with industry trends and government expectations.
We will continue to innovate in the virtual world
The pandemic has meant that we are unable to deliver our programmes face to face. We remain dedicated in continuing to reach out to students and educational establishments.
It has allowed us to take our work virtually and explore several possibilities as to how we can deliver our work online. We are currently working hard to do this as quickly as possible and are engaging with schools to identify the best format so that all students can access the programme.
Our aim is increasing our reach and engagement in order to have a wider impact and are very mindful of the devastating effect the pandemic has had on worsening inequality already prevalent amongst young people in London.
We will continue to innovate in the virtual world and look forward to continuing to support young people through these challenging times.
Many thanks to Northwood College for Girls for sharing the images of their winning Innovate team from 2019 with us.