Skills-based Volunteering with Young Citizens

My name is Badr Iftikhar and I’m a Director within the Financial Services team within FTI’s Economic and Financial Consulting practice. I’ve been employed at FTI, a global business advisory firm, for the past 3 and a half years.  I have been assisting our Corporate Citizenship team with an employee volunteer initiative called ‘Experts in Schools’ for the past two and a half years.

When I first heard about the programme, I was excited by the opportunity as it was a skills-based option, suggesting my professional skills could deliver more impact than my time alone. On hearing more about the programme, I realised it would pair me up with small groups of London students from more-deprived communities. This felt like a perfect chance to give back to society through education. I also considered that perhaps the experience could give students a practical perspectives on the economic and political choices that we face today, boost their aspirations and give them the confidence to contribute towards shaping the issues that are important to them.

So what does the experience actually look like?

I normally work with a class of Year 9 and Year 10 students from various schools around London. My colleagues and I are divided into small working groups. There are only 4-5 young people in my group, which helps build trust and rapport during the session. I believe the session content provides students with valuable knowledge that helps connect the participants with contemporary issues in society. The issues that we normally cover in these sessions include discussions on the impact of economic cycles on different segments of society and the impact of Brexit on different industries. I am currently helping to design a new programme that focuses on the fiscal policies of the UK government when collecting taxes and allocating budgets to different welfare schemes.

“I enjoy working with young people and helping to educate them on practical issues that are normally not covered extensively in their normal school environment.”

As a professional, the experience is really enjoyable, but it is also hugely rewarding on a personal and professional level. During the sessions, I have felt that my facilitation skills are tested working with a completely different cohort of people to my usual meetings. I have had to use a range of facilitation techniques to include all group members and keep the dialogue progressing on the topic as enthusiasm grew.

The Experts in Schools sessions are easy to schedule as it takes place in my office during a 3-hour block in the morning. This allows me to make the most efficient use of my time helping out and not being away from my desk for too long.

The decisions that we make today will affect the young people’s lives more than any other demographic in the UK.

The Experts in Schools programme is a great opportunity for me to help young students understand the key economic and political issues that we face in the UK today. The programme is structured to complement and apply the skills that students learn in their classrooms. Through discussion and debate, the teenagers develop skills valuable within the workplace – including listening, critical thinking and persuasion skills.

“I believe it’s important that young people understand the key issues that the UK economy faces. In one of the sessions, we explored the key issues surrounding Brexit and debated the motivations that fuel both sides of the political spectrum. It’s imperative to involve young people in these debates and help them reach an informed perspective because they will be exposed most to the economic and political consequences of the final outcome of Brexit.”

The Experts in Schools session are well conceptualised and executed.

The material and resources used in these sessions are thorough and presented at the right level for my colleagues and I, facilitating discussion in small groups. Furthermore, the session materials enable the students to challenge themselves but do not overburden them with complex issues and excessive details. I have particularly enjoyed the debates held at the end of each session. These debates not only enable you to see how much progress the students had made in understanding the issues, but also provide some lively and exciting moments.

“The programme provides a great opportunity to connect with young people and recognise their perspectives and understanding of some of the issues we face today.”

I was pleased to observe that some young people are quite well informed and involved about the issues that we face. It provides great satisfaction to be able to contribute to furthering their understanding and removing any misconceptions they may have.

I intend to continue my involvement with the programme as it evolves through time and contribute to its advancement at our office. I also encourage other businesses to get involved to improve staff morale, company profile and the young people who are unquestionably better-informed and equipped on the topic areas.

I have and will continue to encourage other people to participate.

Badr Iftikhar is a Director at Quantitative Finance at FTI Consulting. He has volunteered on the suite of Young Citizens’ Experts in Schools programmes.


Suggested next steps:

Experts in Schools provides an opportunity for professionals to engage with local school children and enlighten them on various topics that are not always made available to them in school curriculum. It encourages discussion and debate about concurrent issues such as fake news and Brexit. To find out more, contact Therri Tait.