‘I couldn’t even see a path’ - Bristol group helping young people get onto the career ladder

L-R: Qazzally Ali, Andy Marshall, and Poku Osei Credit: ITV News West Country

A Bristol group is helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds get onto the career ladder.

Poku Osei started Babbasa when he was a university student in Bristol in 2008. He said the credit crunch had a big impact on young people. 

He said: “I was walking to my flat and seeing young people hang out because they had nothing else to do and were losing that sense of hope - I wanted to change that. 

“Once I started to engage these young people, I realised there was a great deal of purpose and fulfilment.

“I deferred my uni course, and looked at how I could start to create a support network for young people in the community.” 

Babbasa has grown since then and now supports 600 people every year through mentoring programmes, placements, and career support. 

Qazzally first came to Babbasa in 2019.

Qazzally Ali, from the Cotham area of Bristol, reached out to Babbasa when he was feeling lost at university. 

He said: “I had all these questions being thrown at me in first year and I had no idea what I wanted to do.

"Getting a degree is not enough nowadays - I needed to do something outside of uni.

“Babbasa is very well known in the ethnic minority community. I heard it mentioned a lot so went along to see what they could offer me.”

What followed was a 12-week programme and then he got a mentor who helped him find a work placement. 

“It raised my confidence as an all-round person and made me realise my potential with public speaking.

"This also boosted my confidence with writing at uni too. It was an amazing outcome.”

Qazzally continued to work with Babbasa while completing his degree and now works at Our Media, an independent business in Bristol. 

He said: “It’s been amazing, I’ve learnt so much. I couldn’t even see a path without Babbasa, everything I’ve achieved since I was in uni has been because of them.

Poku wanted to make a change off the back of the 2008 credit crunch.

“Babbasa make sure you have the skill set to improve as a whole, and have the skill set to navigate the world whatever route you take.”

On seeing success stories like Qazzally, Poku said: “It feels great to see the difference Babbasa makes. We’re unlocking their potential, and I am inspired by them.” 

Andy Marshall is the CEO of Our Media, the company that now employs Qazzally and has worked with Babbasa for two years. 

He said when they were looking to become independent, they were looking at culture - specifically diversity and inclusivity. 

Andy said: “It’s not just about attracting people to your business, they need to feel like they belong.”

Babbasa carried out an audit of Our Media, which led them to provide recommendations and training. 

Andy said: “It’s been a really positive change, we’re still on a journey and wanting to do more and more. 

“The more different voices you have in a business, the better decision-making we make. More perspectives - more fun.” 

All three men said more businesses working with Babbasa could bring about change. 

Qazzally said: “Collaboration is the only way we’ll ever grow and improve. 

“The level of competition is so much higher, I feel there’s a lack of opportunities.

"A degree doesn’t guarantee anything now, it’s all about connections, Babbasa gives you those connections.”

Andy has been involved with Babbasa for two years.

Andy said: “Talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. If we can help give people that really deserve that opportunity, that’s fantastic.

"Qazz is the one driving his own success, all we’re doing is giving him the opportunity to show what he can do.

“People like Qazz really deserve the chance to show what they can do, and look what he’s doing - Qazz is a living example of this beautiful dynamic emerging where everyone is winning.”

Babbasa is now working on its OurCity2030 project, which focuses on getting 2,030 young people from low-income backgrounds into medium-salary jobs by 2030.

Poku said: “Bristol as a city has got the opportunities and the wealth to level up the playing field for its own people.

“It becomes a question of how we bridge that gap between the haves and the have-nots.” 

Qazzally said: “[OurCity2030] has really galvanised organisations throughout the city to work together and improve the future of people today who might be struggling and are worried about the future.” 

Andy said: “It’s a really important initiative for Bristol. We should use economic power to make a change - use business to do that. It’s fantastic to be a part of this, we’re only a part though.”

You can find out more about OurCity2030 here.