Skill Up Step Up: Door-knocker turned BBC podcaster Reggie Nelson backs our Christmas jobs appeal

East Londoner who forged unlikely career in finance says young people need help to ‘curate their own lane’

Thomas Kingsley
Monday 20 December 2021 17:48
Skill Up Step Up: Christmas campaign launched to support London's jobless youth

Reggie Nelson, the investment analyst and BBC podcaster, has backed our appeal to upskill jobless youth and get them into work, calling it “especially needed for young people” who have borne the brunt of the pandemic.

Before his rise to success, Reggie, 26, from east London, dreamed of becoming a footballer. His contingency plan was to work as a postman. Growing up in an economically deprived area, he said a lack of visibility of different career options pigeonholed young people like him and his peers to a few limited aspirations.

He said: “Everyone either becomes a footballer, musician or a criminal – and when you’re younger you try all three. I tried the music – I was never good at music – and my mum was never going to let me be a criminal … and football was the one thing I thought I had a talent at, so I thought, let me pursue it.”

But after losing his father at 17, Reggie felt he needed to provide for his family and cast his football dreams aside. Curious to find out how the rich amass their wealth, Reggie went on an inspired door-knocking expedition in Kensington and Chelsea, hitting the area’s richest streets. This led him to the door of investment management expert Quintin Price, who was impressed by his get-up-and-go and invited him to an insight day at his firm, later setting him up with work experience and a mentor.

“I never aspired to be in finance until I knocked on that door,” Reggie said. “I knew nothing about investment banking or lawyers or marketing or advertising or that you could curate a lane for yourself.”

With the encouragement of Mr Price, Reggie set off for university, studying economics with Mandarin at Kingston University in London. He now works at one of the city’s leading financial services firms and presents the Your Work Your Money podcast for the BBC, providing business and money advice.

He said that young people of a lower socioeconomic background risk being left behind because they don’t have the social capital to access mentors and sponsors in professional fields who could help them harness their skills. As a result many young people don’t know the options available to them, have limited support to pursue prospective aspirations, and fall more easily into unemployment.

Reggie Nelson ‘knew nothing’ about finance until he knocked on the right door

He added that our Christmas campaign is “especially needed right now” – for students who have suffered the blow of the pandemic and which has kept companies away from on-campus events and workshops that would normally give them a head start.

“Campaigns like this help people understand they’re not the only ones going through it because sometimes you feel, why me? When you realise that other people are navigating it too, that does give comfort. It also gives them a practical sense that if they want to achieve something, they can sign up and get into a field of their choice, be it finance, medical science or whatever it might be.”

Asked for advice for those struggling to find employment, Reggie urged young people to use the hard moments as motivation to keep going. “The hardest moments create the best stories,” he said. Reggie added that there needs to be more traineeships for young people like those offered by City Gateway and Springboard in our campaign. “Initiatives like these play a tremendous part in setting the building blocks for young people to elevate professionally.”

Our campaign in a nutshell

What are we doing? We have launched Skill Up Step Up, a £1m initiative in partnership with Barclays LifeSkills to upskill unemployed and disadvantaged young Londoners so they can be “work ready” and step up into sustainable jobs or apprenticeships.

Why are we doing this? Youth unemployment in London has soared by 55 per cent to 105,000 since the start of the pandemic, meaning that 21 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds are jobless at a time of record job vacancies of 1.17 million countrywide. This mismatch, caused largely by an employability skills and experience gap, is leading to wasted lives and billions of pounds of lost productivity for our economy.

How will it work? The £1m from Barclays will provide grant funding over two years for up to five outstanding, handpicked charities that provide disadvantaged jobless young Londoners with employability skills and wrap-around care to get them into the labour market and transform their lives. The charity partners we have announced so far are:

1. Springboard: they will support young people into jobs in the hospitality industry (hotels, restaurants, bars, leisure and tourism) via a three- to six-week programme that includes one-to-one mentoring, soft skills and employability development (confidence, work attitude, CV building, interview practice and time management), practical industry and hard skills training, including food safety and customer service, as well as access to work experience placements.

2. City Gateway: they will get young people work ready with a 12-week employability programme, including digital skills, a work placement, CV and interview skills and a dedicated one-to-one coach, extending to up to 20 weeks if they need English and/or maths qualifications, enabling them to gain entry level positions including apprenticeships in a wide range of sectors, including finance, digital media, marketing, retail, property and IT.

More partner charities will be announced in due course.

How can the young and jobless skill up? If you are aged 16-24 and want to upskill towards a job in hospitality, contact Springboard here.

If you want to upskill towards a job in any other sector, contact City Gateway here.

For tools, tips and learning resources visit

How can employers step up? We want companies – large, medium and small – to step up to the plate with a pledge to employ one or more trainees in a job or apprenticeship. They could work in your IT, customer service, human resources, marketing or sales departments, or any department with entry level positions. You will be provided with a shortlist of suitable candidates to interview. To get the ball rolling, contact the London Community Foundation, who are managing the process on:

How can readers help? The more money we raise, the more young people we can skill up. To donate, click here

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