Backstage

Backstage: Connecting young people to their professional environment

Brussels, BelgiumVarious, Belgium
Year Founded:
2015
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
Start-Up
Budget: 
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Many young people don't know what job they want to do & at the same time have a very narrow perspective of the job market. On the other hand many professionals in their environment are willing to answer questions about their career. Backstage wants to facilitate communication between those 2 worlds.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if we could reduce the inequalities of access to a professional network ?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Backstage wants to reduce the skill gap and facilitate professional insertion of young people.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Backstage provides a participative platform for career orientation. Professionals willing to get involved in their community can post a description of their career for young people and choose their availability to answer their questions or to organize company visits. Backstage is deployed in secondary schools where we leverage the networks of the alumni and of the parents of the students which are the closest professionals in the environment of the school. Companies have a page on which they can describe their activities and highlight job functions for which they have difficulties to find talents or highlight jobs that will develop in the future. Companies can have employees as ambassadors for particular schools of the region.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Take the case of a student in Brussels in a low income area and let's call him John. John has 16 years old and has to choose a career orientation but he does not know very much about the job market. His parents are not very well connected and cannot help him to meet with professionals that could give him more insights. By using Backstage in a career orientation class at school John sees alumni of his school that have succeeded in different areas and also professionals from other parts of Brussels with very different jobs. John can see who are the professionals that are willing to answer questions about their job and the link he shares with them (same school, same region). Backstage even helps John to write his first emails with templates.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Today Backstage is strengthening the communities that evolve around the schools, allows students from one school to extend their professional network by reaching out to professional from a different environment and help the students to better understand the diversity of the opportunities on the job market. Those impacts can be measured by the number of professionals available for the schools, by the number of messages exchanged cross-schools and by the qualitative surveys to students. On the longer term Backstage ambitions to influence the number of students choosing technical orientations by showing the range of possibilities that they offer and the needs of companies in their environment. Backstage hopes that this would help reduce the rate of failure at university (40% in 1st year in Belgium), increase the employment rate & increase happiness at work thanks to better information.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Backstage launches school by school and first consolidate a region to expand to different cities. We are working in 2 big cities in Belgium and we have pilot projects launching in one district in France (4 schools) and a project under consideration in the UK. Our strategy is to launch local pilots involving as many stakeholders as possible to prepare a top down expansion. For example in Belgium we are working with the representations of the different industry sectors and the representations of the different school systems. This will help us to get visibility, credibility and expand fast.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Backstage is free for the users and offers different services to companies that want to increase their employer awareness in their environment. We are targeting SME with recurring recruitment needs for technical positions. Services include a premium (40€/month) giving visibility to employees ambassadors, outsourcing the maintenance of the platform (avg 400€/month) & consulting to increase comm to schools (includes company visit organisation).

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Backstage proposes an inclusive solution on a very fragmented market. The different solutions to help students better understand the job market and build their professional network include 1/ career counselling online & offline tools 2/ career fairs & company visits programs 3/ networking tools. Particularities of Backstage are to include those 3 categories in one tool and to leverage the sharing economy trend with local communities.
Team

Founding Story

Thomas has many friends who have struggled to find a job and a career orientation that they liked. Since university Thomas has been very interested in the professional insertion and happiness on the workplace. Thomas started to be requested for advices by young people having to choose an orientation. Thomas noticed that they did not have a lot of information about jobs and had never talked to professionals outside their family bubble. Thomas thinks that the best way to help the young is to connect them to other professionals who are in general happy and proud to answer their interrogations. There came the "Why not develop a tool to connect youngs to professionals happy to give their input?"

Team

Thomas is developing the project and is partnering with non-profit organizations in Belgium supporting him with their expertise. Thomas has been working for 5 years in software development with startup organizations in Belgium and in Chile. Thomas has evolved from technical roles which helped him to develop the current version of the website to managerial roles. Thomas wants to hire a business developer and a business analyst in 2016 to strengthen the team. Thomas holds and applied mathematics engineering degree from the Université Catholique de Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium) and a MBA from Insead (France/Singapore).
Background
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Ashoka newsletter

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Founder

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

Decent Work and Economic Growth.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

Thomas' professional experience have exposed him to entrepreneurial environments. In his first job he was the first employee of a startup in the IT/telco industry. His second job was to roll out a spin off of a Chilean university with which I had worked during his master thesis. He then joined bigger companies where he started to get more managerial responsibilities. Example of entrepreneurial initiatives outside his professional experience include the creation of a student job at his city town's library when he was 16 by asking to open a non-existing position, the organization of a soap car race in his student town when I was 20 and the organization of a 11,000 km road trip in Europe when he was 25.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

Backstage is working with 2 non-profit organizations in Belgium, one active for more than 17 years with the schools and one working on a more political level. At the same time Backstage is working with mentors coming from the private sector and the education sector. The mentors include an ex-CFO of a >4000 employees company; an HR director of a >3000 employees company, an HR director of a <300 employees, a university teacher in professional orientation.