I heard about the British Youth Council from one of my colleagues at The Careers & Enterprise Company, who offered me the opportunity to get involved in their latest project on improving the work experience in UK. I was thrilled to learn more about the work of the British Youth Council, which is to empower young people across the country to use their voices.
At The Careers & Enterprise Company, our mission is to inspire and prepare young people for the world of work, by building networks, backing the Gatsby Benchmarks and supporting Careers Leaders. For these reasons, and also because not long ago I was a young person experiencing or looking for work experience myself, it only felt natural for me to want to offer my skills and expertise to this project.
I worked with five other members in the Action Group, between the ages of 16-25. They had the same purpose: to find new ways to improve how the work experience is delivered by Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) across the UK. The way we did this was by designing a toolkit for SMEs, called ‘Unleashing the potential of work experience: A guide for SMEs’, explaining what good quality work experience is, what young people expect from it and the ways SMEs can deliver it. Each member of the Action Group brought a different set of skills and experiences to the table which really made a difference and added a personal touch to this toolkit.
As I currently work in the Marketing team at The Careers & Enterprise Company – and am being trained to become a graphic designer, the idea of designing a new publication really made me enjoy the time spent brainstorming design options and I was more than happy to offer my expertise in this area.
We attended a three-day residential where we approached multiple ideas, researched what work experience currently looks like and drafted the content for the future toolkit. We also played social games, to get to know each other and to learn how to work together effectively.
In State of the Nation 2019 – a recent report from The Careers & Enterprise Company, it celebrates the improvement of careers education and highlights that at least 2 million young people are now receiving an encounter with an employer every year. These are brilliant outcomes for young people across England – but we know there is still work to do.
During the residential, we had a video call with Emelia Quist from Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) who told us more about the barriers SMEs face when it comes to offering work experience to young people. These included time, lack of financial resources and a general misunderstanding of what it is needed from them in order to provide the best quality work experience.
Taking this information into account when creating the toolkit, we incorporated statistics, myth busters and case studies showcasing personal opinions from young people who had previous good and bad work experiences.
We also had the chance to speak with and interview other young people from across the country, in a workshop that we have done since the residential. Hearing from young people gave us a much deeper insight into the way they perceive work experience and how SMEs can further help with careers guidance.
We focused on finding five main areas that will guide SMEs to offer better quality work experience. These included:
- Preparation and planning
- An enabling and inclusive environment
- Skills development and support
- Feedback and evaluation
Additionally, we included a bank of resources that SMEs can use, such as a feedback form, a daily planner for the young person, questions the employers should ask themselves when engaging with young people – but also practical actions to support them.
The toolkit, in its final form, aims to demystify careers education and guidance for SMEs. It also aims to offer some guidance and advice to employers who are willing to offer work experience to young people across the country.
I believe this project has the power to make a difference in the way employers see and deliver work experience in the UK. I am certain of this because this toolkit has been created by a group of motivated young people who are extremely passionate about their futures. I was extremely lucky to meet so many young people who want to experience the real world of work, gain new skills, knowledge and become better versions of themselves. I also hope that SMEs will find in this toolkit the support they need in order to offer better quality work experience in the future.
It’s been a fantastic opportunity to meet like-minded people, who have the same mission, which is to improve the culture of work. It also made me realise how important it is for young people to use their voices, their experiences and to fight for every change they want to see in the world.
I’ve learnt how to communicate better and engage with different people with so many opinions, views and experiences by stepping out of my comfort zone and participating in this journey. The members of the British Youth Council really made sure we all felt respected, valued and safe during this project which I think is very important and it really helped us when putting together the best version of this toolkit.