The Youth Engagement Opportunity: is it time to think differently?

10 September 2015

Today there are more than 900,000 people classed as NEETs (Not in Employment, Education or Training).  There is still 14% unemployment amongst 16-24 year-olds, against an overall figure of just over 5%.  Of course, the government has promised 3 million apprenticeships, and there are a few employers trying to help through specific work programmes, work experience and outreach.  Yet we seem to moving to stand still.  There is still a skills gap in the UK, especially in engineering, tech and other technical areas; and many organisations complain about a lack of ’employability’ skills amongst the young.  So, considering all of this, isn’t it time to think differently about Youth Engagement?

CSR Investment – In America, research commissioned as part of the Business Backs Education campaign found that global Fortune 500 businesses only spend $2.6bn (13%) of their $19.9bn CSR budgets on education-related activities.  Is this different in the UK?  There’s no research to say.  But if a similar trend is adopted here then it begs the question of why is so little put towards education, especially when we know that education can lift people out of poverty, tackle skills gaps and grow prosperity?

Employee Volunteering – Large organisations have hundreds if not thousands of people who could help to support, mentor, teach, guide and even train young people.  They are even given the time to do it through volunteering days.  So isn’t it time for an employer to engage their people and help them to help others.  Too often, volunteering is focused on painting schools and raising funds.  Worthy of course; but wouldn’t it be more valuable to put this effort behind a co-ordinated, long-term mission?

Brand Association – Research conducted by Neff Consulting on behalf of Lloyds Banking Group showed that there are often better outcomes when corporates support small community organisations.  The money of course helps.  But the association of a big-name brand acts like a magnet encouraging others to give to the cause and driving better local results.

Youth Empowerment – Who better to help young people than young people themselves?  Sejal Makheja was a high-school student when she set up The Elevator Project to help people climb out of poverty through education programmes.  Harry McCann set up Kid Tech when he was 15 to help kids learn coding, and he’s gone on to found the Digital Youth Council.  There are a lot of young people who could help their generation to learn key skills; sometimes they just need the funding and support to do it.

There are many other aspects to Youth Engagement – engaging on social media, influencing through vloggers, digital engagement, schools workshops, access and much like.  But fundamentally, it feels like we need to start with a purpose and a mission.  And in true 106 style, we are going to start the ball rolling…

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