On Friday 11th November, East Ham MP Stephen Timms launched the Academy of Finance at Newham College. The programme combines business education with work experience in the finance sector, to give young people the tools they need to succeed in the business world.
The project began in the USA. The founder was Sandy Weill, the Chairman and CEO of Citigroup, the world's largest bank. He wanted to equip school leavers with the skills to move directly into the financial sector. In fact, of the first participants, 95% went straight on to university - even though many had not dreamed they would be able to do so. Mr Weill describes this as his "most successful failure". The project came to the UK in 2001. Today, half of London boroughs have an academy. Europe's financial capital at Canary Wharf provides the perfect base to give Newham students real-life financial sector experience.
Each student has a professional mentor and embarks on a six week work placement with a financial services company. The course is rigorous. Students graduate with a nationally recognised qualification, equivalent to three A levels.
Speaking at the launch, Stephen Timms said "Here are opportunities where our young people can build a superb future for themselves. One of the priorities that's emerged from the Government's review of 14-19 education is a need to strengthen links between education and employers - to give employers more say about the education that their future employees will be receiving, and give students more of an opportunity to see the links between their studies and their future employment. The Academy will achieve those aims."