When James Pearson was 16, he dropped out of high school and started working as a real estate agent in London. His mother gave him one piece of advice for his first job: “Get caught cleaning the windows.”
She meant that he would make a positive impression on his boss if he went the extra mile.
“I ruined the windows because I didn’t know any better and used soap,” Pearson chuckles. “I didn’t know there was such thing as window cleaner. My boss was furious.”
Pearson says that after a year he was “lucky enough to get picked to go to Spain and open a real estate branch for the company.” That’s when something clicked. He realized that if he showed up early and worked hard enough, opportunities would present themselves, no matter his educational background or job history.
Fast forward 10 years: the WeWork Spitalfields member is now the director of Jobwise Training, which trains underprivileged teenagers for the workforce. Each year, he and his staff of 40 teach 900 young people ranging from 16 to 24 years old how to pitch a business idea. After a two-week course, his team places them in jobs in 300 partner organizations.
Many of these companies are WeWork members, who provide the students with valuable feedback about what employers look for in a perspective employee. And if they hire a Jobwise graduate, they receive £1,500 in government grants.
“Here, there are small, creative companies that want to grow quickly but don’t have the cash flow to hire high-end people unless they have capital investments,” says Kayne Brennan, co-founder of the marketing production company Tickle Media. “To have a pool of candidates who want to get into your space, this is a chance to find someone who you can teach core skills and attributes to and have them apply that to the day-to-day business. These are young people who are keen to learn.”
WeWork members scout out Jobwise graduates at the Dragons’ Den, a business pitch and networking session. By putting on several of these events in WeWork locations throughout London a year, Pearson has helped 21 students find jobs within WeWork over the past six weeks.
“I want to try to teach students that every person brings value to an organization, but it’s not that simple,” Pearson says. “You really have to prove yourself to an employer.”
When Brennan went to his first Dragons’ Den, he was “thoroughly impressed by the way the youngsters organized themselves to come up with a business concept and present that to business owners. That’s a tall order.”
One of the students who really impressed potential employers is Sherri Midwinter, an 18-year-old marketing coordinator at Tickle Media.
“I had been working as an apprentice at another company doing their marketing, and I wasn’t happy there,” Midwinter says. “They didn’t teach me anything, and spent hardly any time with me, and I was confident that would not happen at Tickle Media.”
And it didn’t. Midwinter got an incredible amount of responsibilities she wouldn’t otherwise have gotten. One example was she got to run the Together Project, which Brennan, a WeWork Aldgate Tower member, started up in collaboration with Jobwise to help them get more WeWork employees to hire their program graduates.
Midwinter is also learning Photoshop and Illustrator from Tickle Media’s head of design, Tim Lawrie, who has 25 years of experience in the business. Midwinter says she’s been enjoying the types of projects she’s been working on and acquiring a variety of skills, including business administration and communications.
“My day consists of me coming in and having a meeting in the morning and then understanding what my job is for the week,” Midwinter says. “I work with a team that does a lot of design work, and I get to give my input on the choices we make.”
Other WeWork members who have hired Jobwise graduates include Amanda Cai, co-founder of iContract, a WeWork Moorgate member. Cai needed to fill a social media and sales position, so she attended the pitch session sponsored by Jobwise. She quickly found a winning candidate in 18-year-old Latesha Shola Campbell. She liked Campbell’s energy, creativity, and passion.
“With the right training, she can help us to manage marketing activities,” Cai says. “Going forward, I would like to engage her further on sales activities.”
Campbell says iContract taught her how to be tech savvy and how to write business correspondence. Through Jobwise, she says she’s gotten a lot more self-assured.
“My confidence has improved through taking part in the Dragons’ Den presentation at the WeWork buildings,” Campbell says. Not only has it boosted her self-esteem, but she says she’s also built her “organizational skills through planning a product for the Dragons’ Den presentations and communication skills by networking after the presentation.”
Amit Shah, CEO of the digital agency Hirola Mobile, found a standout candidate for a studio assistant role in Kwasi Arthur. He met him for the first time at the Dragons’ Den.
“When Kwasi came in and said he likes to rap, I asked him to rap, and he rapped for a couple of minutes,” says the WeWork Aldgate Tower member. “That showed he had confidence. And when I usually ask the question, ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ a lot of candidates say, ‘as a marketing assistant.’ But Kwasi said he wants to be the CEO of his own business. That’s what I’m looking for: someone who is confident and ambitious.”