LONDON, England – Virgin Atlantic has pledged £2.5 million over five years to support STEM initiatives with grants, sponsorships and investments through its Passport to Change programme. Working with new charity partners, Speakers for Schools, The Smallpeice Trust and UK for UNHCR, the airline’s community programme aims to inspire and empower young people from all corners of society to engage with STEM education and build career skills for the future in science, technology, engineering, and maths.
Designed to empower the next generation to fulfil their potential through education, the relaunched Passport to Change programme will provide access to STEM learning for young people through a combined model of direct school engagement, grants and scholarships.
The ambition of the Passport to Change programme is to grow its presence across destinations and, through charity partnerships, encourage social mobility and close the difference between the majority and minority groups, creating opportunities to address inequity in educational learning.
Estelle Hollingsworth, chief people officer, Virgin Atlantic, commented: “At Virgin Atlantic, our purpose is to empower everyone to take on the world and our vision is to be the world’s most loved travel company. To achieve both, we must invest in the hearts and minds of young people who will define our future.
“Our Passport to Change programme is how we at Virgin Atlantic use our business as a force for good, through our communities, our people, and our partners.
“We know there is a huge gender gap in STEM, and that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are disproportionately impacted. By working with our incredible new charity partners Speakers for Schools, The Smallpeice Trust and UK for UNHCR, we can reach, educate and empower young people from all parts of society to engage with STEM education, driving real change in the communities where we work and where we fly.”
Virgin Atlantic has teamed up with Speakers for Schools, a charity aiming to end educational inequality and level the playing field for all young people. As part of the collaboration, this pioneering year-long programme has been created to ensure young people from its three partner schools – Thomas Bennett Community College in Crawley, Pentrehafod School in Swansea and Luther J Price Middle School in Atlanta – see the entire breadth of the aviation industry.
Across the ten months of the full programme, students will be engaged through a mixture of in-person and online events with modules showcasing what happens behind the scenes of an airline, how planes fly, as well as exploring sustainable aviation and decarbonisation. It is estimated that the economic benefit to communities served is over £29 million over the lifetime of the young people who have utilised the programme. Over time, the ambition is to increase the network of partner schools across the UK and international communities, bringing the programme to a wider audience of young people.
Jason Elsom, chief executive officer, Speakers for Schools added: “We are proud to partner with Virgin Atlantic for this first-of-its-kind immersive programme, allowing young people to experience every aspect of the aviation industry with such an iconic brand. “Passport to Change” will open the door for young people to an exciting industry and meet the experts leading the way at Virgin Atlantic.”
Virgin Atlantic is also working with STEM-based educational expert partner, The Smallpeice Trust, using its educational resources to focus on increasing student engagement in STEM subjects, in particular engineering. In turn, Virgin Atlantic will sponsor scholars in The Smallpeice Trust’s Arkwright Scholarship programme and sponsor a short residential programme in 2022, which explores the world of STEM.
Caroline Broadway, director of engagement, The Smallpeice Trust commented: “Virgin Atlantic’s Passport to Change activities will inspire more young people to find a passion for STEM, while helping all those involved gain life and leadership skills. Working in partnership we can increase the diversity and number of young people entering engineering careers.”
Further to its partnership with The Smallpeice Trust and speakers for Schools, Virgin Atlantic has teamed up with UK for UNHCR to protect and empower refugees through the humanitarian work of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. UNHCR protects people fleeing conflict and persecution around the world, and helps them to access education and livelihoods so they can rebuild their lives. Throughout 2021 and 2022, Virgin Atlantic will support 2,000 young refugees in Delhi, including young, displaced Afghans, with an accelerated learning programme before expanding the partnership to support university STEM scholarships for refugees around the world.
Emma Cherniavsky, chief executive of UK for UNHCR, said: “We are delighted to be one of Virgin Atlantic’s Passport to Change charity partners. Refugees face many barriers to accessing education, with just five per cent of refugees enrolled in higher education. Investing in a refugee’s education supports not only their personal learning and job prospects, but also their wider community. Funds raised through the programme will have a lasting impact.”