hen Tyreek Kasim graduated from sixth form in the summer of 2020 with straight As and decided to turn down a place at university to apply for an apprenticeship, the last thing he expected was to wind up jobless and ground down by the system.
But this is exactly what the 19-year-old from Hounslow endured before his luck changed after doing a course at City Gateway, one of the charities we are funding to make jobless young people work ready as part of our £1 million Skill Up Step Up campaign in partnership with Barclays LifeSkills.
Tyreek said: “I began my job hunt last summer feeling buoyant and that because of my grades, it would be a breeze. I searched on UCAS and the GetMyFirstJob website and started applying for five apprenticeships a week, focusing on business, finance and digital marketing. I couldn’t wait to start earning and learning.”
But it was the first summer of Covid and, as the rejections piled up, Tyreek began to worry.
“I made around 60 applications over three months and scored just two five-minute phone interviews — one with an accounting firm, who said my maths C for GCSE was too low, another with Lloyds Bank, who also turned me down. For months I was in my bedroom burrowing away making applications getting more and more discouraged. Many of my peers had gone to uni and I felt left behind.
“I started to realise that my lack of work experience in a professional environment put me at a real disadvantage. You never see or speak to another human, so you have no real sense of why you’re not succeeding. It’s soul destroying.”
One day, Tyreek’s mother spotted an eight-week employability course run by City Gateway in east London. It would mean a commute but it included work experience, so he decided to give it a go.
It was the moment things shifted. Tyreek said: “I was put on a course with 11 young people who had been repeatedly rejected, just like me, and it gave me strength because I felt I was part of a cohort that was resilient. I was learning useful presentation skills and how to make my emails look more professional.
“Suddenly, instead of constant failure, I was seeing chinks of light — and then came a breakthrough when I landed a digital marketing traineeship.”
But after that ended, Tyreek again found himself at a loose end. “City Gateway kept calling to encourage me to keep applying and I felt seen and cared for,” he said.
“One of their coaches told me they were putting me forward for a social media position that had come up at the BBC. I was excited but didn’t dare hope. I had a Zoom interview where the BBC asked me to talk about my journey and I spoke about all the rejections I’d had and how I’d been able to overcome them by upgrading myself at City Gateway.”
That got Tyreek into the final round which involved a full day of interviews and tasks for the eight short-listed candidates, including devising a series of social media posts.
“A few days later, I got a text from my City Gateway coach who said, ‘Congrats, you’re the new face of the BBC’. I was ecstatic.”
Tyreek started as a BBC social media assistant in September and will be paid, he said, more than £20,000 a year. It’s a six-month contract with BBC Global News at Television Centre in Shepherd’s Bush and he hopes it will lead to more work at the BBC.
“I am loving the job,” he said.
Charlotte Moore, business co-ordinator for BBC Global News, said: “Tyreek is a fantastic colleague and I’m delighted with the significant contribution he is making to the team. He has shown real enthusiasm and City Gateway have been superb partners throughout.”
Ms Moore added that they would be taking on more City Gateway apprentices in 2022. “Our Springboard programme has now welcomed many people who might otherwise not have got the opportunity to work in the media.
Being able to work with people with different perspectives and experiences is a huge benefit for businesses, and we’re delighted to expand this programme and we are committed to hiring more apprentices in the future.”
Asked what advice he would give to jobless young people, Tyreek said: “Don’t sit at home alone like I did because there are great organisations out there like City Gateway that can help. And never give up. There will be one opportunity out there with your name on it.”