Earlier this month we held our annual Youth Summit in Birmingham. Despite various travel strikes, we were delighted to welcome more than 100 attendees to BT Group’s Three Snowhill office. This included HR, youth outreach and training professionals, alongside 46 young people who are currently job-seeking, in employability programmes, or have overcome barriers to work and are now in employment.
Against the scenic backdrop of Birmingham city centre and beyond (we had the most amazing views from the 17th floor!), the day was packed with lively and meaningful discussions, with live polling thrown in for good measure. The purpose of the day? To bring people together to look at the reality of the situation and discuss what we can do collectively to work towards a more positive future for young people.
More importantly, the summit provides a platform for young people to share their experiences of job seeking – the highs and the lows. It’s an opportunity to listen and to learn from them, to refresh and deepen our understanding of what a quality job and career means to young people today and how we can best support them on their employment journey.
Why do we do this? Because young people need us more than ever. In the UK, young people are still nearly three times more likely to be unemployed than the rest of the population and set against the backdrop of a recession, unemployment is expected to rise in the next few years. In the last quarter, there was an increase in the number of young people who were aged 16 to 24 years and not in education, employment or training, with the total currently estimated to be a staggering 724,000.
Through an all-youth panel session and roundtable discussions, it was humbling to hear first-hand the stories of young people who are trying to find their way in the world of work. What struck me was the openness in which they shared – the challenges they’ve overcome, the challenges they’re currently trying to navigate and their amazing successes too. There’s no mistaking it, the past few years of pandemic lockdowns have seriously impacted our younger generation.
I don’t want to give too much away as the MtW team has distilled the outputs and key discussion points into a summary document which you’ll find a link to below but here are some quick reflections……
There continues to be challenges with how we engage and speak to young people to promote training or employment opportunities. Their challenge to us? Be more creative and don’t be afraid to speak straight. Lose the business lingo and be direct about what opportunities are/entail and more importantly, what your business stands for. This matters.
Work experience still has a place for young people and for businesses but it suffers from a bit of an image problem. How do we make it more attractive? There are some key ingredients. including ensuring it’s meaningful and provides real experience for the young person, allowing them to add value to the organisation they’re working for. Also, don’t underestimate the impact of buddying a young person up with an employee – this can make an experience all the more positive.
I’ll stop here as I’d really encourage you to have a read of the report and think about the role you can play in tackling the challenges our young people outline. Here at the Movement we’re considering our next steps, engaging our employer and partner network to share the insights and collectively explore what we can do to help drive change.
An event of this calibre and size cannot be delivered alone, so I’d like to say a huge thanks to everyone who attended, listened and shared so honestly and openly. Particular mention goes to: Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street; David Gaughan from the West Midlands Combined Authority; BT Group; Tesco; The Prince’s Trust and the Department for Work and Pensions for their support and amazing contributions.
We’d love to hear your thoughts and any comments you have – the conversation doesn’t and can’t stop here – so please get in touch with me or a member of the team.
To read the summary document, please click here.