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How PUSH and the Brixton Finishing School hope to make work better for millions of young people

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PUSH Mind and Body, a leading wellbeing and mental health training company, recently joined forces with Brixton Finishing School to support a work-focused community training programme for young people.

The ADcademy programme, run by Brixton Finishing School, aims to help under-represented 18 to 25-year-olds by upskilling, inspiring, and helping participants grow their professional networks.

The new partnership with Brixton Finishing School is part of PUSH’s pledge to ‘Make Work Better’ for three million people over the next three years focusing on corporate organisations, communities and individuals. 

The PUSH Futures initiative aims to proactively safeguard young people’s mental health by equipping them with the tools required to manage life in the workplace including how to best articulate their well-being needs to their employer.

To learn more about the programme and the partnership, I spoke with PUSH Founder Cate Murden and Jennie Dean, Outreach Director and Wellbeing Lead at Brixton Finishing School.

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Cate Murden

Cate, can you tell our reader about PUSH? What would you say is your overall “mission statement”?

PUSH are workplace wellbeing training providers. We fiercely believe that we all have the right to be healthier, happier and more productive at work, and since 2014 we’ve been making that happen by delivering better mental health, wellbeing, development and leadership for organisations and their people. 

But really what we do can be summed up as this: we Make Work Better! In fact it’s at the very heart of our recently launched pledge: to Make Work Better for 3m people in 3 years.

We will do this by continuing to run our brilliant work through PUSH Corporate – our programmes of combined live and digital content which works directly with individuals and organisations incorporating our four pillars: THINK, FEEL, DO, MANAGE, and we have also launched two ground-breaking new initiatives PUSH Community and PUSH Futures.

Jennie, we spoke to Finishing School founder Ally Owen earlier this year and she told us that the Brixton Finishing School was “an allergic reaction to Katie Hopkins having a voice in our industry when so many others were systemically excluded from our ecosystem.” What does it mean to you though? 

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Brixton Finishing School & The ADcademy is about levelling the playing field for everyone to get a fair shot at entering - and thriving in - this industry. So much of what we do - and what I do in my role leading our outreach and comms - is about raising awareness that some amazing job opportunities exist, and thanks to our change-making partners, anyone with raw talent and passion can take on these roles. 

You have pledged to “make work better” for three million people in the next three years with the ADcademy. What does “better work” look like to you?

Cate - Better work looks like healthier, happier and more productive workforces. I think we’ve all had moments in our working life when we’ve felt awesome - we’re laser-focused, productive, and fulfilling our potential - it’s a real buzz! However too often that’s the exception and not the norm.

The good news is there’s work we can do as organisations and as individuals that will help us sustain that feeling: Organisations can learn how to create psychologically safe, supportive environments which empower their people to thrive. Individuals have to upskill their mental health, wellbeing, development and leadership skills so they have the foundations from which they can perform at their best. It makes work better - every time!

You describe the ADcelerate program as “a two-week intensive programme that prepare individuals for life in the workplace through a series of employability-focused workshops and masterclasses.” Can you be a little more specific regarding the kinds of workshops participants will be taking?

Jennie - The programme is a combination of employability upskilling and showcasing our partners, and the job opportunities they have open, to the students. We’re running sessions on CV writing, interviewing, presenting with confidence, coaching, well being, and demystifying job descriptions - alongside sessions where the students will get to meet different companies to hear more about what they do, the roles they have available, and the types of candidates they’re looking for.

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Jennie Dean​

Cutting the age off at 25 seems a little harsh given that many of us don’t find our “true callings” until later in life these days. Would you ever consider upping the limit to those in their late twenties and thirties?

Jennie - Yes, we do have plans to open up our courses to older age groups in the near future. We also run a separate programme called VisibleStart designed for midlife women looking to break into the digital media industry.

Would you agree that wellbeing and mental health have become something businesses are more willing to discuss in a post-pandemic landscape?

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Cate - Absolutely - It’s been a watershed moment for so many reasons but it certainly fast-forwarded the de-stigmatisation of discussions around mental health in the workplace. And more than that - it caused many companies to position mental health as front and centre of both their people and business strategy because they witnessed the impact of the pandemic on their people’s wellbeing (and, let’s be honest) saw what that was doing to productivity and their bottom line.

More than ever employers are recognising that they need to support their people, and that wellbeing is intrinsically tied to productivity:  the pandemic played a huge part in that.

Do you feel that company culture is something businesses should be taking more seriously?

Cate - Yes, culture is critically important to company success, particularly in this new world of hybrid working. Culture is about understanding the shared beliefs, values and behaviours of a company, however we’re seeing a huge amount of uncertainty and a real lack of clarity around the behaviours, processes and expectations of people in this new world of work.

We also know people want connection to company purpose, a sense of community and collaborative support for their productivity, and remote working makes all of that a lot more challenging. Organisations can no longer wing this, culture has to be built with intentionality and effort.

Cate, could you give us any specific examples of how you’ve improved company culture in the recent past?

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At the end of 2018 Catalina Marketing was experiencing challenges with the continuous changes faced and didn’t like the way the business was headed. The rigid organisational structure was impacting staff motivation, creativity, ownership and their ability to feel empowered to make decisions, ultimately resulting in high rates of annual staff attrition and high costs of recruitment and training.

Seeing this, the UK Leadership Team knew they needed to change the company culture in order to make a positive difference to the business. Over 8 months PUSH delivered a blend of workshops and 1:1 coaching with the Catalina Team.

This included three facilitated workshops with the internal Culture Champions to help with on-going culture change; seven personal development workshops around questioning and listening, sales techniques, feedback, awkward conversations, improv at work; and 1:1 personal development coaching.

These workshops helped the team to understand their culture mindset, develop the vision and values around ways of working, and streamline their internal meeting process.  The results of PUSH’s work with Catalina Marketing were astonishing, certainly one of our best case studies to date that showed by investing in their people, Catalina improved the culture of its team, and in turn dramatically improved their motivation and productivity.

Jennie, can you tell us about some of the industry names that are teaching classes as part of the ADcademy?

Incubata, MIQ, PHD, Born Social, Imagination, Milk & Honey, Mail Metro Media, Reprise, WPP, Quantcast, Blis, Anomaly, Channel 4, VCCP.

What would you both say the ideal ADcademy candidate looks like?

Willing to learn, passionate about the advertising industry and excited to be part of a change-making mission. Hungry, adaptable, passionate!

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