Shajahan Miah says he enjoyed school, though he had few aspirations and did badly in his GCSEs. But in two years he has gone from being an under-achiever to a rewarding job in the City.
Shajahan, 18, is today a trainee desktop analyst at the London's Docklands headquarters of HSBC bank, which normally only employs graduates or experienced IT professionals. His rescue from near failure is down to a programme called e-skills4industry launched in 2001 by a partnership of top UK companies, business agencies, and further education.
For the pilot programme, 36 pupils, aged 16 and 17, from three schools in Tower Hamlets, east London, were trained in information technology and employability skills at Lewisham College. They then had work experience at one of the partner companies, which included HSBC, Morgan Stanley, Deloitte amp; Touche and News International.
"What makes somebody employable is often the softer skills which schools and colleges don't pay attention to," says Femi Bola, who runs the programme at Lewisham College. "Part of the programme was about employability skills that prepared people for, for example: what the corporate life is going to be like, what is expected in terms of punctuality and attendance, and what behaviour and attitudes make people successful in these kinds of organisations.
"The majority of them have three or less GCSEs at A to C, so they're not the people that these corporates would normally employ. Some have only one GCSE - one has none. And they're loading Bloomberg packages on the trading floor at HSBC."
Shajahan Miah is one of seven young people to have found permanent IT jobs at HSBC through the scheme. During the programme he took a City and Guilds IT systems support technician's qualification and an industry-recognised Certified Internet Webmaster's course.
As a trainee analyst, he provides IT support to colleagues working in investment banking and markets. "The job is pressured, but that's what you're going to expect. When I first started here, I didn't have much confidence. But as time went on it became easier," says Shajahan.
"Me and the other e-skillers are the youngest in the building. When I first arrived, you could see people thinking: 'He's just a kid', but they don't think that any more."
HSBC human resources officer Claire Mitchell said the young trainees have been a breath of fresh air to the company. "I'm hoping they will build a career within HSBC and consolidate what they know.
"A lot of graduates who come in are quick to think: 'What training are you going to give me?', 'When am I going to be running the department', and 'When am I going to be chief executive?' They can be quite demanding. But I'm hoping these kids will give us continuity and a degree of service, because they will have worked their way up through the ranks and have an understanding of the organisation."
The e-skills4industry initiative won an award for excellence at this year's Business in the Community awards, and is shortlisted for a National Training Award. It has now been expanded to ten FE colleges nationwide