Tom’s time at SBT: a loan that paid off

“Going on secondment at SBT offered me a greater sense of agency,” says Tom Cooke from professional services firm EY. “It gave me the opportunity to apply my skills at a higher level and allowed me to drive and deliver my own agenda.” 


Tom completed a year-long secondment with The Social Business Trust, a charity partner of EY, from October 2021 to October 2022. This allowed him to use the skills he’d developed at EY in a completely different role and environment – as an investment manager in the charity sector. He built up renewed confidence and honed his abilities. Tom also came to feel greater passion for his work when back at EY after his SBT posting.  


Tom, a Manager at EY-Parthenon, the firm’s strategy consulting arm, heard about the secondment opportunity when working on a pro bono project as part of EY’s longstanding partnership with SBT. He was leading on a project with Career Ready, a charity supported by SBT that helps young jobseekers get work experience. This project helped Career Ready’s leadership team develop its five-year strategy, consolidating progress they’d made following a period of growth. The work ensured the charity’s focus was on those most in need of its services.  


His efforts helped Career Ready define and communicate the mutual value it creates. Now, there’s a clear understanding how Career Ready’s work benefits its ultimate beneficiaries: the students who get mentor support. Further, the project showed how its work benefits employers and educational partners. 


Career Ready’s corporate mentors develop professional skills and find a sense of purpose by supporting young people into jobs. The teachers in the programme gain a better understanding of the types of career paths available in the corporate world. Additionally, the businesses that work with Career Ready gain access to a pool of potential workers with varied skills and backgrounds they may not otherwise come across. Identifying this value was important to Career Ready in order to justify the contribution that businesses were asked to make in order to be part of the programmes. 


Tom’s pro bono work at Career Ready, arranged via the EY-SBT partnership, left an impression. So much so that he applied to work on secondment at SBT, where he could use his skills for a longer period with the other charities and social enterprises SBT supports. Here, he would get the chance to shape SBT’s future when he was working with fellow strategists at Bain, another SBT partner, and contributing to SBT’s new five-year strategy.  This strategy refresh led to a newfound confidence in his abilities. As leader of the strategy work, he worked on the project from start to finish. 


“The experience opened up my professional network and enhanced my ability to lead a project with a wide variety of people involved, including senior stakeholders,” said Tom. “The SBT team are incredibly supportive, but they do rely on you to deliver – it was truly an invaluable career experience for me.”


He also came to see the mutual benefit of the partnership between SBT and EY. On first impression, it might look like it’s only SBT getting something from the arrangement. That is, that an EY employee is spending almost a year working at a charitable organisation. 


But EY, after the secondment, get back an employee who brings with them a breadth of new skills and networks – and new expertise and perspective’s that helps on projects for private clients as well as continued pro bono work.   


“I stepped into more senior roles when at SBT,” says Tom, “and I built up a network that I will draw on for many years to come.”

What’s more, he “found satisfaction and fulfilment doing work that was supporting local communities”.   


Would he recommend a SBT secondment to others? “100 per cent,” he replies.


And for those who are not able to go on secondment, Tom says there’s other options to work with charities and social enterprises through SBT. You can do shorter-term project work, you can mentor leaders in the social enterprise sector or run sessions where you pass on skills and knowledge that will assist others. All practical ways to make an impact.


September 2023


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