Dean Woodroof, Distribution Centre Manager at BrightHouse, London, is our 2018 Citi Bank Volunteer of the Year for Essex. Here, he shares why BrightHouse is a Career Ready employer and the impact it has had on them as an organisation. 

I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do when I left school. Like a lot of the students we work with I grew up in a difficult environment on a council estate, watching friends resorting to crime. I talk to the students in the language they understand, not fancy words.

Some students are clear about what they want to do, some need an arm around their shoulders and others seem quite lost. If you can engage with them and relate to them, you can help them see how to move into a full-time job.

I tell them about my own journey, going from a front-line job all the way to running my own distribution centre.

I got involved with the Think Logistics programme through my HR Business Partner. They had started working with Career Ready in Manchester and she said ‘Why don’t you come along to a local school? I think you’d enjoy it.’ I did a couple of events with her then I said ‘we’ll run this ourselves’.

Our Career Ready manager Debbie Farrell manages us very well. If Debbie asks you to do something, nine times out of ten you’ll be doing it. We’ve done whole days in schools with hundreds of students doing different activities, like Think Logistics workshops and ‘speed dating’ sessions where they find out about what you do in your job.

We did one workshop at Treetops, a special needs school, and that was amazing. The children had to build a raft and get it to transport sweets. They wanted it to work so much and were so happy when it did. I’m no different from a lot of other people and could quite easily stereotype children with learning difficulties, but they were amazing. When we asked them where TVs came from, one child knew all about cargo from South Korea. We couldn’t believe it. I took a colleague from West Drayton who said it was a blessing to be there.

I’ve got 50 people working for me and I’ve dragged them kicking and screaming to the schools and it’s been great for our bonding as a team. This was one of our worst performing sites and now it’s one of the best – plus we’re out being active in our community. It’s very high profile for us. If businesses say they haven’t got time for their staff to go into schools, I would say they don’t realise how much they will benefit. There’s a benefit to the brand and a benefit to your own staff, who get the chance to do something different and rewarding.

I mentor a student on the programme called George. I told people he was coming in to work with us so they all said hello to him and made him feel welcome. He’s going to do two days a week with us and would like to be a transport manager. We can give him an opportunity and if he takes it, he’ll get a job. 

Learn more about how Career Ready works with employers to help young people kick-start a successful future, or get involved today and make a lasting difference.