Social Value high on the agenda for EY Northern Ireland

  • Photo: EY has appointed its first Director of Social Value, Jo McGinley

    In a continuing display of its commitment to Northern Ireland, EY has appointed its first Director of Social Value.

    As one of the first companies to appoint a dedicated role to social value, Kathryn McKenna spoke with Jo McGinley at EY’s thriving Belfast office in Bedford House to find out more.

    EY is a global professional services firm with a 900+ strong NI office based right here in Belfast. The company is well known for its commitment to the communities in which they work, and social value plays a huge role in contributing to this. Whilst Jo’s role is specific to Northern Ireland, Jo is looking forward to working with colleagues across EY’s global offices.

    “Social value has been an intrinsic part of the fabric at EY for a number of years,” Jo explains.

    EY NI announced 1,000 new roles for the firm last September, this growth will see the organisation more than double its headcount over the next five years. With this in mind, Jo outlines how important a role social value will play.

    “This new role will help amplify something we have been doing at EY for a number of years. We are one of the first out of the blocks to appoint a Director dedicated to social value which shows the commitment and importance it has to the growth of EY in Northern Ireland.

    “Social value is not new, but it’s becoming increasingly critical for organisations to invest in by creating dedicated resource and providing strategic direction. We might be one of the first, but we won’t be the last as I think that we will see more of these appointments across sectors in the region.”

    Increasing social value efforts

    One of the benefits EY offers their employees is the option to volunteer for a charity. All staff are allocated a certain amount of time which they can spend sharing their skills and time with their local communities and third sector.

    Jo, who volunteers on a board of a local charity in Northern Ireland which supports young people with autism and learning disabilities and helps them to gain employment, says: “We currently have over 900 people who can dedicate two full days per year to the local community as part of their role at EY. As we double the amount of people we have working at EY Northern Ireland, this will naturally increase the level of vital social value work that is carried out.

    “Many of us cherish working in an organisation that supports and encourages getting involved in community work and volunteering. Every employee wants to feel like they are contributing to their local community and be part of something ‘bigger’.”

    Collaborating with community partners

    As EY expands, it is an important time for a dedicated Director of Social Value to be appointed. “Building a strategy around social value for an organisation which is going to grow double-fold in the next five years is one of my key priorities,” Jo comments.

    This strategy will be created in partnership with EY Northern Ireland’s existing community partners; which includes established relationships with the likes of Business in the Community NI, Catalyst, and STEM projects with the Sisters IN programme; as well as expanding into the North West region.

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    “It is about building on our relationships across communities, partnerships and key stakeholders to have the greatest impact in the region,” Jo explains. Jo will continue EY’s important work with schools based in Northern Ireland, with a particular focus on attracting more young females into the tech industry as well as those from a diverse background.

    Jo comments: “The skills challenge in STEM in Northern Ireland is cited by many businesses as one of the key challenges to growth. Encouraging young people, and young females in particular, into studying STEM subjects is something which will be hugely beneficial for many of the key growth sectors in NI – like professional services and tech. We have been working alongside science and technology hub, Catalyst and sharing our global EY STEM app with 13- to 15-year-olds. This is a gamified app that opens the world of STEM in a fun and engaging way and gets young people to think about STEM in a different way.

    “You become what you see, so working with schools is fundamental to encourage young people to consider STEM and a future in the tech industry. I think giving young female students and those from more diverse backgrounds a sense of belief can be truly life changing.”

    EY NI has a number of existing partnerships with local schools and community focused youth initiatives including a ‘Time To Code’ programme roll out with EA and BITC, corporate sponsorship of Young Enterprise NI, sponsor of The Irish News Young Readers Programme, Catalyst Schools partner and more. This is in addition to a robust student recruitment programme which puts EY front and centre with NI schools, connecting local students and young people to the opportunities EY can offer.

    Diversity & Inclusion in our DNA

    Jo recognises the importance of diversity and inclusion to EY. She says: “Diversity and inclusion are part of the DNA of EY Northern Ireland, from our recruitment, our outreach, to working with schools, and also working in partnership with other organisations to reach those sometimes-unreachable pockets within Northern Ireland.

    “We have 39 nationalities currently represented in our Belfast office – and this is growing every month. I believe this sets us apart because having that diversity of background gives us a better diversity of thought and approach. This all contributes to better teaming and ultimately, the services to our client are enhanced as a result.”

    A great example of DE&I at EY in practice, is the Assured Skills Academy programme: EY NI have just kicked off their third academy, working with the Department for the Economy, focusing on Risk and Regulatory Compliance.

    “The academy is a training programme for all, where no specific degrees related to professional services subjects are required. For example, a graduate of Architecture is welcome to apply and gain a route into EY. We encourage applications from all disciplines and will provide the necessary training to position applicants to apply for a role with us. The academy provides an opportunity to bring diverse skill sets to a professional services firm that perhaps would not have typically been done in the past.”

     Social value runs in the family

    Having started off her career studying Law, Jo worked in the Middle East and London as a journalist before moving into public relations, communications, and finally professional services. When the role of Director of Social Value became available at EY, this seemed like the perfect combination of both Jo’s professional experience, and family inspiration.

    “Social value has always been in my blood,” Jo explains. My late father also worked in Social Value, although it wasn’t called Social Value then. My dad worked in the oil and gas sector and repatriated nationals in Africa and in the Middle East into the industry. He managed training centres that supported people who didn't have the skills, experience, or opportunity into employment.

    “My mum was a youth worker in the North West, working in some of the most socially deprived areas there. As well as professionally, there is a very personal element to this role – social value runs in my family.

    “Working for an organisation which is committed to growing its presence in Northern Ireland really stood out to me, alongside EY’s focus on regionality.

    “I am really passionate about making an impact here in Northern Ireland and I think with the growth ambitions that EY has, and the commitment I am seeing from leadership, that I have an opportunity to really make a difference.”


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