People of Wellington Place: Stephanie Burras

Wellington Place is more than just bricks and mortar, it’s a thriving community powered by people. This series of interviews aims to highlight some of the people of Wellington Place, share their inspirational stories and find out why Wellington Place is much more than just a place to work…

Interview with Stephanie Burras, CEO at Ahead Partnership

Passionate about the role that education plays in transforming lives and accessing opportunities, Stephanie founded Ahead Partnership back in 2004, to support young people in the local community. Previously a lawyer, we hear from Stephanie about how Ahead Partnership started, the events held at Wellington Place, and her budding musical talent…

Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I grew up in Lancashire and moved to London where I studied law, before coming to Leeds in 1996 and becoming partner at law firm Pinsent Masons. I’ve always had a passion for how education can help improve the future career aspects of young people, so in 2001, I set up a link between Pinsent Masons and an inner-city school. I saw firsthand how small amounts of committed support could really help young people to find their way forward.

Can you explain what Ahead Partnership is, and how it started?

Ahead Partnership enables employers of all sizes and sectors to improve their social impact. We do this by helping them to design and deliver their own unique programmes aimed at addressing inequality, overcoming barriers, and supporting surrounding communities.

In 2004, I left the law firm to do what I thought would be a two-year project focused on encouraging small businesses to support inner city communities and this is where ‘Ahead’ was born. When the two years were up, there was no way I could contemplate going back into legal practice and so Ahead lived on. It has since grown from me and a phone to today’s wonderful team working with employers right across the country to help young people to achieve their full potential.

What’s your favourite thing about being CEO at Ahead Partnership?

My favourite bit of the job is bringing new projects and programmes together with different partners and creating fabulous opportunities for young people.  Seeing these projects in action and seeing a visible change in confidence when young people take part is the most fantastic result.

Tell us about your partnership with Wellington Place?

We share Wellington Place’s passion for creating community, so it is a natural partnership. Together we can bring young people into the heart of Wellington Place, connecting them with professionals and businesses right on their doorstep, and making aspirational workplaces more accessible for young people in the area.

When was your first event at Wellington Place?

Our first event was in 2018 and involved Year 9 students from Leeds secondary schools. This group of female students enjoyed workplace tours and took part in a speed networking session where they were able to meet women in all sorts of roles, from apprentices to CEOs.

That first session has evolved into our Women of the Future event, which has grown year on year and is now held around International Women’s Day. Since that time the programme has evolved to feature multiple events including eco-workshops with primary schools and the Enrichment Festival which is a multi-day event for Year 10 students before they take their GCSEs. Wellington Place now provides a great platform to engage young people from primary school right up to GCSE level.

How important is your partnership with Wellington Place?

It’s incredibly important. As a landmark in Leeds, Wellington Place is a highly significant workplace destination. It is also incredibly aspirational and makes a profound impression on the young people that visit.

What’s something exciting that most people may not know about you?

I am a keen musician and started playing the harp ten years ago because I found it a fantastic way to de-stress! I am now the harpist with the Harrogate Philharmonic Orchestra.

What three words sum up Wellington Place to you, and why?

Community – Wellington Place has created a unique community encompassing businesses across different sectors and now extends to the local community including the young people we work with.

Potential– there is so much potential at Wellington Place, in terms of the businesses, the professionals who work there, the local economy, and for the young people we work with.

Hub – it’s a hub of activity, there’s always something going on and I hope the young people that we bring to Wellington Place feel and are inspired by this.

If you would like to tell your story, or wish to nominate someone to take part in the People of Wellington Place series please email info@wellingtonplace.co.uk