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Sam’s Story – Whizz-Kidz & EY: From work placement to a full-time career

Sam received his first wheelchair from EY’s charity partnership with Whizz-Kidz more than 20 years ago and, as a teenager, became involved in their Employability Programme which aims to support more young wheelchair users as they look to secure employment. 

Whizz-Kidz Team
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Whizz-Kidz Team

Through this charity alliance, Sam has now secured a full-time role with EY, working in the Insurance Audit team as an Account Support Associate. This involves keeping client engagements on track, monitoring budgets, collating newsletters, and liaising with other teams to ensure information is gathered.

Whizz-Kidz and the EY work placement

Sam Steel is a young wheelchair user who, back in 2015, was studying Law at the University of Reading. Through Whizz-Kidz, he participated in a work placement week at professional services firm, EY. At that time Sam was unsure about his career goals and was keen to get additional work experience to broaden his horizons. He had previously completed a work placement in a legal firm but the experience with EY was, in Sam’s words, “the first of its kind”. He recalls attending a breakfast event where the recently established Whizz-Kidz & EY partnership was being discussed by panellists, including Ruth Owen (the former CEO of Whizz-Kidz and a wheelchair user herself). This event inspired him to consider career options within professional services.

Throughout the placement, Sam worked with different teams to gain an understanding of the different roles and work at EY, which also provided the opportunity for networking and building working relationships. 

Life at EY and building a career

Sam's positive work placement experience made him realise that he wanted to work for EY. He remained in touch with key contacts and his work placement colleagues, waiting for the right opportunity to become available. 

When that opportunity came in 2021, Sam applied for the role through the normal EY application process. His work placement had given him the confidence that he would be able to secure the position on his own merit, and he now had the opportunity to prove himself and show that he was the right person for the job. From EY's perspective, Sam’s application assessment scores were among the highest ever achieved! The standout scores - in addition to his follow-up interview - meant that Sam successfully secured the role, and he is now settling in and very much enjoying life at EY.

“The contacts I had previously made definitely eased my transition when joining EY - it was great to already know a few familiar faces. It’s wonderful that I still feel the impact of that [work placement] week”.

Working remotely has also provided a different experience. Sam’s joining date with EY aligned with the company's shift to a hybrid working model, where employees can split their time between the office and working from home. To Sam, this has been “liberating” - it allows the flexibility to maintain his work-life balance while still having the option to go into EY offices to meet the team in person. In addition, the use of technology (such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams) to facilitate meetings and collaborate has been a refreshing experience. 

"The interview/onboarding process was all virtual – for the first time I’ve had to tell colleagues that I’m a wheelchair user rather then it be immediately apparent as I enter the room… Having the ability to disclose this has been refreshing, as I had never previously had the chance."

Sam is extremely keen to support the EY and Whizz-Kidz alliance to allow him to come ‘full circle’ and be more involved. Looking back to previous work experience with other employers, Sam noticed that he hadn’t seen physically disabled people around the office. But during his placement week in 2015, Sam looked up to his EY senior manager as a role model. Sam is now hoping that he can become that role model for another young wheelchair user who is starting their career.

“Seeing people like yourself is vital in the workplace - the opportunity to be able to be a buddy or mentor is particularly exciting. But first and foremost, I’m excited to build my career at EY and it’s wonderful that these two things can go hand in hand, considering the EY and Whizz-Kidz relationship.” 

Reflecting on this opportunity today, Sam noted that Whizz-Kidz had been able to “open doors that he couldn’t”, allowing him not just to secure the work placement but also now build a career.