Inspiring the next generation of innovators and leaders through real-life experience

By Oliver Peppiatt, Nanaxhi Colomer Luis

Since its launch in 2018, the PA Consulting Springboard Programme has given more than 300 young people hands-on work experience of consulting. The programme gives disadvantaged students the opportunity to develop valuable skills to ‘springboard’ their careers by devising ingenious solutions to the world’s toughest challenges.

In 2023, our largest programme yet welcomed 60 young people across four offices in the UK and US: London, Cambridge, Denver, and New York. This was made possible by 70 volunteers passionate about social mobility collectively contributing 2,300 hours of their time.

Whilst each office varies the programme according to consulting specialty, they are all focused on providing participants with meaningful work experience by enabling them to develop solutions to given real-world challenges. 

In this article, London and Cambridge Springboard leads Olly Peppiatt and Nanaxhi Colomer Luis reflect on the three key things participants tell us make this approach so impactful:

1. Experience, not observation.

Springboard provides groups of participants with real-world client problems to solve, ranging from providing sustainable sanitation in disaster relief zones to designing solutions to tackle everyday mobility challenges faced by an aging population. Supported by experts they develop and present their ideas (and prototypes) to clients. 

This is real experience of a consulting project, not just observing one in action. Experience is essential to enabling true social mobility by allowing individuals to engage with the world of work and feel that they can be part of it, not just observe it.

2. Skills, not drills.

Participants tell us that other ‘work experience’ often involves them observing, learning, and repeating processes specific to the organisation or industry. By contrast, Springboard provides them with an opportunity to develop and practice essential and transferable skills like problem-solving, critical thinking and, effective communication, that are of benefit in any professional field or further education.

3. Collaboration in action.

Working in a project team enables students to experience how effective collaboration capitalises on the diverse skills and knowledge of team members. Communication is fundamental to bringing together individual contributions to work towards a shared goal within time constraints. Whilst young people are often told the importance of collaboration, Springboard enables them to learn from experiencing it in action.

At my last work experience I sat and listened to someone take phone calls for most of the week, whereas here I worked in a team, came up with ideas and presented to real clients. I felt like a real management consultant!”

When we listen to the participants of our Springboard programme, it is clear they appreciate the way it offers them experience that equips them for the wider world of work, not just for one organisation. The purpose of work experience should not be to prepare a young person to fulfil a specific role in your organisation, but instead enable them to develop transferable skills, gather practical experience and understand how to collaborate in a professional environment. 

That is how truly meaningful work experience helps to create the workforce and leaders of tomorrow. With the support of The PA Foundation, the Springboard Programme is committed to continuing to provide these opportunities, particularly for those facing disadvantage.

About the authors

Oliver Peppiatt PA public sector expert Olly supports local authorities to transform their care technology offer to deliver the best possible outcomes for citizens
Nanaxhi Colomer Luis Sustainable materials Nanaxhi is a materials scientist, helping clients better utilise materials in their products to improve sustainability and leads PA’s Cambridge Springboard Programme.

PA in the Community

We give our time and expertise to develop and inspire people to be the innovators and leaders of tomorrow.
Young student in collaborative setting


Our Springboard programme brings together young people from all backgrounds to work in teams, mentored by our experts, to devise ingenious, technology-led solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.

Explore more

Contact the team

We look forward to hearing from you.

Get actionable insight straight to your inbox via our monthly newsletter.