Atom Bank, will.i.am and the Prince's Trust
Atom bank, the first bank in the UK to be built for smartphone and tablet, has today announced a new partnership with the Prince’s Trust as their leading science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) partner in the North East.
Atom and The Prince’s Trust aim to equip over 500 young people with STEM and digital literacy skills needed for employment today and in the future.
Atom's Chairman, Anthony Thomson, was joined by the Prince's Trust's Clare Crabb to announce the partnership, which will see all of Atom's workforce given the opportunity to get involved in the programme - conceived with the support of Atom advisory board member will.i.am, who joined the Atom team in their County Durham headquarters to talk about the partnership.
"Atom was founded in the North East, we're funded in the North East, and we have 300 people, most of whom are from the North East. We're passionate about what we can contribute to our local society," Anthony said.
"We'll be working with the Prince's Trust over the next four years to try to tackle youth unemployment in the community."
The region has one of the highest levels of youth unemployment in the UK, with 14.6% of young people currently not in work, and The Prince’s Trust reporting that 48% of young people in the North East don’t feel prepared to enter the workforce.
Through investment in programmes and centres in the region, the partnership aims to address the critical skills gap and reduce the risk of disadvantaged young people becoming increasingly isolated and pushed further from the job market.
"We are a digital bank - there's a good argument to say we're a digital business that just happens to have a banking license," continues Anthony. "We're looking to develop an Atom-specific STEM programme over the next few years."
On the role of the Prince's Trust, Clare said: "We equip them with the skills, and the self confidence and self esteem to move into a positive outcome - whether than be work, training or education. It's fair to say that over the last five years we've had a renewed focus on STEM, to futureproof young people and make them successful in the workplace."
With over 300 people based in its headquarters in Durham, Atom is uniquely placed to partner with The Prince’s Trust in the region. The highly experienced team, with extensive digital and technological skills, will be providing mentoring and workshops to Prince’s Trust young people.
Atom are working with American musician will.i.am, after being inspired by his passion and experience in building successful STEM programmes in the US, founded by his I.am.angel foundation.
He first became aware of the work of the Prince's Trust when then-BBC show The Voice brought him to the UK, and when he hosted Anthony in Los Angeles he was struck by his passion and enthusiasm for will's i.am.angel programme.
"It was a 360, in a beautiful way," said will. "Something that I helped kick off in 2012 with the Prince's Trust, to the genius of Atom and Anthony Thomson wanting me on his advisory board, and one of my first nuggets of advice was to ask how Atom could become a stakeholder in the local community."
"Whilst you're doing that you also teach kids about the basics like financial literacy; you help them to get jobs and make jobs. Their whole view on finance changes. And I've seen this happen in my local community. So here we are, full circle," he adds, referring to him connecting the two.
Anthony noticed the many socioeconomic similarities between will's neighbourhood in East LA, and the North East of England, with similar rates of youth unemployment, where this type and style of intervention is helping to upskill young people.
"Just telling an inner city kid to follow this path, whilst I sit in a chair and sing in the Black Eye Peas, that's hypocritical," will says, doing an animated impression of the reception he would get from the young people he works with. He talks about the turbulance of entrepreneurship being that "if you fall down, you learn that you'll never fall down like that again. And school doesn't teach that - yet."