How The Access Project can help lead to a consulting career

20 June 2019 6 min. read
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Over the past 11 years, The Access Project has grown from a project led by a few North London teachers to a national charity, providing support to bright but disadvantaged students looking to access higher education. Having started out as a student, KPMG consultant Fatos Nacakgedigi is now a tutor and trustee for the charity, and spoke to about her incredible journey with the charity.

First dreamt up by North London teacher Alex Kelly and a group of his friends in 2008, The Access Project started life as a minimal scale scheme to provide ambitious and bright students with academic support they could not get at home. According to the charity’s website, the one-on-one tutoring originally provided proved even more successful than the small band of educators had hoped, prompting Kelly to establish The Access Project formally to ensure more young people could benefit.

Eleven years later, the fast-growing project is now working in 31 schools, with over 1,000 tutors supporting 1,300 students across London, Birmingham and the Black Country and the East Midlands towns of Ashfield, Mansfield and Shirebrook. Tutors now work with a 14 to 18-year-old students frompartner schools to help students achieve their potential at GCSE or A-Levels. In weekly tutorial sessions across the school year tutors address the topics that students’ teachers think they need the most help with.

Fatos Nacakgedigi, Tutor & Trustee, The Access Project

The weekly sessions are proven to not only raise grades – providing students from disadvantaged backgrounds with personalised tuition to help them gain access to top universities – but also improve a young person’s confidence and aspirations. One of the best examples of this is Fatos Nacakgedigi, an Access Project alumnus now working as an M&A Technology Consultant within KPMG’s Integration & Separation team.

Full circle

Fatos was one of the first students on The Access Project programme and benefitted from three years of tutoring in GCSE English and A-Level Spanish. Being a student in the programme meant a lot to her, as “like most other students at Highbury Grove School, there was no chance my family could ever afford private tuition.” As a result, she gladly agreed to become part of the initial cohort of Access Project students.

With a wide gender gap in the professional services sector, many firms are now seeking to boost their female headcounts with recruitment drives. Here, the Access Project is also doing some demonstrably important work by encouraging a new generation of female talent to join the industry. Looking back on that formative experience, Fatos noted that her tutors “were successful young women... they gave me a glimpse of what my career could look like.”

The programme's positive impact went beyond academic support, however. Fatos explained, “Of course, their academic support helped me perform better at my subjects, but in my view, academic support is only a part of what The Access Project achieves…what I found most important is the motivation that my tutor inspired in me.”

Leaving school did not spell the end of Fatos’ association with The Access Project, either. During her time studying Spanish at the University of Bristol she remained involved in any way she could, and after joining Big Four professional services giant KPMG via its graduate programme, she became a tutor with The Access Project within a year. Working in mergers and acquisitions meant that finding time to volunteer was a challenge; however, her belief in the goal, as well as the “really supportive” colleagues and partners at KPMG meant finding an hour each week remained both realistic and rewarding.

Fatos enthused, “As soon as I finished my A levels, I decided I wanted to be an Access Project tutor. It sounds cheesy but having seen the positive impact TAP had on me, I felt it would be selfish not to do the same for another student.”

“As soon as I finished my A levels, I decided I wanted to be an Access Project tutor… Having seen the positive impact TAP had on me, I felt it would be selfish not to do the same for others.”
– Fatos Nacakgedigi

As a result, Fatos’ tutoring experience has now come full circle. Alongside her current role as a Technology in M&A Assistant Manager with KPMG, she supports an Access Project teen from a disadvantaged background with GCSE English.

Commenting on her student, she said, “I could see the difference from when she first met me to the end as she was much more confident in asking questions. After her exam she messaged me to thank me, as her exams had gone well because of the support she had through our tutorials.”

Recognised success

In 2018, Fatos’ journey with The Access Project progressed in yet another direction. Having been one of the first students to participate in the charity programme in 2008, a decade later she became a new member of the organisation’s board of trustees, representing the best elements of what the programme can achieve. Fatos is therefore keen to support The Access Project in achieving its goal widening participation in higher education, due to how much she benefited from the charity, and highlights that she is “living proof that The Access Project’s programme works.”

The Access Project’s good work has been recognised by the consulting sector beyond KPMG, too. The UK industry’s representative body, the Management Consultancies Association, named the project as the charity partner of its prestigious annual awards in 2019.

Commenting on the importance of promoting social mobility in consulting, MCA CEO Tamzen Isacsson said, “We are champions of diversity for its own sake and because it makes business sense to make the best of people from all backgrounds and meet all our clients’ diverse needs. That is why it is so appropriate that the charity this year’s MCA Awards supported was The Access Project, which helps bright students from disadvantaged backgrounds to fulfil their potential and win places at university when perhaps that was thought of as beyond them.”