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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 alliance 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

In 2015, while he was studying Law at the University of Reading, Whizz-Kidz worked with Sam to organise a work placement at professional services firm EY. At the time, Sam was unsure about his career goals but was keen to get additional work experience to broaden his horizons. He had previous experience in legal work placements 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 alliance 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. 

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. 

“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 week”.

Life at EY and building a career

Sam had already decided that he wanted to work for EY. He remained in touch with key contacts at EY, waiting for the right opportunity to become available. 

When this did arise, Sam applied for the role through the normal EY application process. This gave him the confidence that he was able to secure the position on his own merit and the opportunity to prove himself and show that he was the right person for the job. From an EY 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, where he is currently settling in and very much enjoying life at EY.

Sam’s joining date with EY aligned to their 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” as it allows the flexibility to manage his work-life balance while retaining the option to go into EY offices to meet the team in person. In addition, the use of technology, such as Zoom and Teams, to facilitate meetings and collaborate has also been a refreshing experience. Looking back to previous work experience at other employers, Sam noted that he hadn’t seen physically disabled people around the office – and that his initial experience of EY has been different, mainly due to working remotely. 

“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.”  

Moving in to 2022, Sam is extremely keen to support EY and Whizz-Kidz alliance to allow him to come ‘full circle’ and be more involved. While on placement, Sam noted that he had EY senior manager James Ellery-Gower to look up to as a role model and, by supporting the Whizz-Kidz alliance, he is hopeful to fill the same role for another young person starting their career: 

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