When I was first elected to the board I truly felt I had gotten there on sheer luck. How could I, a 19 year old living in Devon, have ended up on the board of a national charity? And, it’s a worry I had again last year when our members elected me as Chair at 23.
In the months since I was elected as chair I have been thinking a lot about “imposter syndrome” and particularly what it means for us at British Youth Council. This is probably a rather unconventional look at imposter syndrome.
The concept of imposter syndrome relies on a belief that your talent or qualifications do not meet the threshold for holding a particular role or office. But when the role is without a set list of qualifications, like being a trustee, it can be a bit more complicated; this isn’t a role that says you require certain A-Level grades, a particular degree, or 5 years professional experience.
This role requires you to bring a diverse range of skills, and some of those skills will be different to other people on the board. This is how we make sure that as a board we are comprehensive so we can cover all areas. This is how we make sure we have good governance. In my non-British Youth Council life, I work in Parliament. I bring a knowledge of policy to the board, but I will never claim to be a finance or risk whiz.
Knowing what you bring to the table is a skill set in itself. It is the ability to assess our own strengths and weaknesses, and identify where we might need help. This doesn’t make you an imposter – it makes you smart.
I take issue with the idea of imposter syndrome, especially in volunteering and elected roles like being a British Youth Council trustee. When our trustees are elected or appointed they have been through multiple application and interview rounds. This process is designed to ensure that they have the right skills needed to be a good trustee. If they are elected they are presented to members who then make the decision about who is elected.
I think for me to say that I felt like an imposter as Chair of British Youth Council would be a bit insulting to the Search Group who reviewed my application and interviewed me and to the members who elected me. For me to say to all of those people that “you were wrong, I shouldn’t be here”, is undermining their credibility in making decisions.
So no, I don’t have imposter syndrome.
I might at times lack self confidence but that is far more likely to be that I am not an old, white man like most charity chairs rather than my ability to do the role. When members elected me as chair, I had already served four years on the board and brought with me experience from my life outside British Youth Council. To say that I got here on “luck”, is to ignore all the work I put in to acquire the skills and experience to be able to do this role well, it is also to undermine the judgment of those who elected me here.
I think a lot of the time we self diagnose ourselves with “imposter syndrome” instead of drawing attention to the systemic and structural barriers holding the most marginalized back. To ignore these barriers, to dress it up in a nice bow with an easy name of “imposter syndrome”, means that we will not be able to address them, work on them, and overcome them.
The word ‘diversity’ can trigger a whole spectrum of emotions and thoughts. For many people from underrepresented backgrounds it often induces feelings of skepticism. Many organisations come out claiming to want more ‘diversity’ and that they appreciate ‘diversity’ but a lot of the time it can be perceived as insincere and merely a box ticking exercise, especially when they have a poor track record on taking action against inequalities. In these circumstances, diversity is superficial and is not embedded into the organisation’s strategy and culture. Most of the focus is on bringing ‘diversity’ in, and organisations often forget about the important steps; how do we make sure that these voices are: heard and empowered, have the influence to make meaningful change and actually feel safe and valued in this space.
The British Youth Council have always been ahead of the curve when taking action on inequalities. Our young people are so passionate about fighting injustices and over the years we have supported them to do amazing things such as: speaking out on trans rights in healthcare and health inequalities, supporting an LGBT-inclusive curriculum, supporting ethnic minorities, disabled, LGBT+, women and faith group liberation campaigns through Equality for Us, calling for an end to anti-Black police brutality and to violence against young women and girls.
As the British Youth Council’s lead representatives, the Board of Trustees, are responsible for guiding the strategic direction of the charity. Fighting inequalities is very important to our members and so we must insure that it is reflected in our Board and in our strategy.
The Board has been on a journey in improving representation. In previous years it was heavily male dominated, now the majority of the board are women. However we know we must do more. The goal is to ensure our Board is continuously reflective of the diverse mix of identities and backgrounds we have at membership level. We are looking inward to make sure our policies and processes are inclusive so it is a safe and empowering space for everyone.
At the British Youth Council we are not just saying we want more ‘diversity’, we have looked at our Board and reflected on who are the underrepresented groups and we have clearly stated who we think are missing at the table. We welcome applications from all eligible young people, and this year we are particularly keen to receive applications from young people who:
- are aged 16 to 21;
- live in Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland;
- Identify as having a disability or life limiting condition.
- Identify as Black, Asian or from a minoritised ethnic community.
- Identify as LGBTQ+
As a Black woman applying to be on the Board last year, seeing a majority white board and being the only Black person running for a trustee position I had concerns around the work done on inequalities at the highest level of the charity and concerns around having the ability to be successful in the recruitment process. I am now more aware of the great work done at membership level and how well the staff support our members. However I know that it is not enough and we must continuously work towards making sure all levels of the organisation is representative. The Board is passionate about this issue too and we hope that this year we can make more progress towards improving representation as well by embedding this work in our strategy. Overall, we can continue being a charity that is ahead of the curve on fighting against inequalities.
If you would like to join our Board of Trustees, find out more here: https://www.byc.org.uk/members/trustee-recruitment
The deadline for all applications is Monday 21st June 2021
The British Youth Council are calling on the UK government to announce its plans to replace significant funding lost since the UK’s exit from the EU. Following the ratification of the new trading and cooperation agreement with the European Union, organisations in the UK have lost access to Erasmus Plus.
The youth-led charity is calling on Ministers to take steps to address the €1 billion shortfall in funding which will affect many organisations across the UK. More than 4,800 UK-based projects were awarded funding between 2014-2018. The EU programme enabled organisations to support young people to develop new skills, gain vital international experience and boost their employability. UK Youth Parliament and UK Young Ambassadors, which are coordinated by the British Youth Council, have both received significant funding and support from the European programme.
Sarah Staples, Chair, British Youth Council said: “It cannot be right that young people have lost out as a result of this new deal with the European Union. Many UK youth organisations will have to scale back their work with young people or stop their work altogether if this funding is not replaced. The government must prioritise creating some certainty for the future of this funding so young people can continue to have access to these opportunities in post-Brexit Britain.”
The programme was also well-known for student exchanges and enabling young people to study, volunteer and gain work experience. Despite promising otherwise, the UK government will no longer participate in any part of the programme. The government have since announced the inception of the Turing scheme, which is due to commence in September 2021, and will allow young people to study and do work placements in other countries. However, the British Youth Council has concerns that without action and a like-for-like replacement for Erasmus Plus young people in the UK will lose access to the informal educational opportunities which they have been able to access until now.
The national youth council has written to Gavin Williamson CBE MP, Secretary of State for Education and Oliver Dowden CBE MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to urge action so organisations can continue to deliver for young people post-Brexit.
The British Youth Council recognises that the majority of young people voted to remain in the European Union back in 2016. At the time young people were very concerned about employability prospects, opportunities for young people, threats to our education system and rising racism and fascism within our society. The British Youth Council urges the government to work with young people to ensure that they are given a voice on the global stage and to work with them to give them opportunities for education, to build relationships across national and cultural boundaries and to build their employability prospects.
Coming to the end of my role as UK Young Ambassador for EU Youth Dialogue, I have begun to reflect on journey. EU Youth Dialogue allows young people to interact with policy makers at an European level. The 7th Cycle of EU Youth Dialogue had three main themes. These were based on three EU youth goals – 1) Quality Employment for All, 2) Quality Youth Work for All and 3) Opportunities for Rural Youth. As UK Young Ambassadors we designed a nation-wide consultation that engaged 530 young people.
As a unit, my team of UK Young Ambassadors were given a voice to represent UK youth on an international stage. This meant we learnt to become strong communicators. We used our national consultation to be informed of the views of young people in the UK. This enabled us to communicate their views when delivering presentations and when networking. Delivering a national consultation on opposing themes did present us with challenges. We found that young people struggled to complete such a long survey. This put more pressure to ensure that focus groups and other dialogue events were encapsulating the evidence we needed for the report. Fortunately, when it came to data evaluation, we started to see themes pop out.
One of the main results from our consultation was the challenges surrounding the Future of Work. Young people across the UK were concerned about accessing quality jobs, as they believed it was difficult to prepare for a labour market that is constantly reshaping.
One of the core concerns is the availability to high quality access to the Internet, which is eerily poignant in the rise of remote working due to Coronavirus. Young people believed that certain groups were inherently disadvantaged if they did not have access to good quality Internet. They identified issues with recruitment being exclusively online – as this means those without stable Internet access are unable to apply. This year has saw a huge digital transfer of both the job market and jobs themselves. Young people now need Internet access, not as a commodity, but an essential for employment.
Additionally, young people highlighted the barriers they faced living in rural areas. They expressed issues from a lack of amenities. These included poor public transport, poor access to health, education and leisure facilities and high-quality broadband. Young people worried that they had to move in order to access education or secure quality employment. However, they wished to remain in their current areas and support local businesses.
Another outcome from the consultation was the need for Quality Youth Work. In the UK, youth work is often seen as a voluntary role. Our findings recognised the need for youth work to be seen as a profession. The standard of youth work could be raised with investment in youth worker qualifications that recognise the profession. The aim is that official youth worker qualifications will create a more sustainable strategy for youth work across the UK.
Overall, this paints a picture of a myriad of challenges that UK young people face. However, the outcome of the consultation was not gloomy. While young people highlighted their difficulties, they also presented solutions. They even felt communities themselves could be an effective tool for change that would provide short term solutions that addressed and adapted to local needs.
As an out-going UK Young Ambassador, I have been lucky to secure a role with Future Leaders Network as the Co-Chair of the Y7 2021 Taskforce. I will be leading a team of young people to deliver the G7 Youth Summit in the UK next year. I hope to use my networks and connections to further promote solutions to the challenges raised in our consultation.
For other young people out there, I would say become a champion for your concerns. Feel empowered to become a catalyst for change in your area. Reach out to leaders in your community and tell them about the challenges in your area. Write to your MPs, MSPs, MLAs, MSs – inform them about your needs as a young person. Provide leaders with evidence (such as this report) or any that you have gathered. You can even organise your own EU Youth Goal workshops in schools, colleges or youth clubs. Young people should lead the way as change-makers, not only in their local community, but internationally too.
Youth Futures Foundation has announced a new partnership with the British Youth Council to put young people’s voices at the heart of all the not-for-profit’s activities. They are inviting charities and organisations working with young people who face barriers to employment to encourage them to apply.
Eleven young people will form the Future Voices Group, which will work with the staff team and Board of Directors to advise and feed into Youth Futures Foundation’s vision and strategy, the things it funds, its research, communications approach and partnerships.
The British Youth Council has been championing youth voice since its foundation over 70 years ago and will support members of the group. Youth Futures was established in 2019 with a remit to understand and share ‘what works’ to help young people who are most disadvantaged, have equitable access to quality jobs.
Alex Morawski, a Member of the Youth Futures Foundation’s Board of Non-Executive Directors and incoming Chair of the Future Voices Group said: ”The Future Voices Group not only gives young people a seat at the table, it invites them to lead the conversation on youth employment. This is an opportunity for young people to challenge the status quo and for their experiences to inform ambitious changes to remove the barriers to securing meaningful work which so many face.”
Sarah Staples, Chair of the British Youth Council, the charity helping to deliver the programme, said: “The global outbreak of coronavirus and its economic impacts mean unemployment will be a key concern of young people across the country.
“We’re really excited to be working with the Youth Futures Foundations to form the Future Voices Group. It’s really important that young people have an opportunity to influence the conversations surrounding youth unemployment. Young people want to be at the forefront of challenging the many barriers they face when trying to secure a fruitful career.”
Anyone interested in joining the Future Voices Group must be aged between 16 and 24 years, resident in England and have direct or indirect experience of facing barriers to gaining meaningful employment. Examples include being of ethnic minority heritage, a refugee or asylum seeker, having a special educational need, physical disability or long-term health condition or coming from a socio-economically deprived background.
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.
Following consultation with young people, the Work Experience Action Group has launched their Work Experience Toolkit for small and medium businesses in England. The newly formed focus group has created a series of resources which are due to be distributed amongst Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and young people’s hubs outlining what quality work experience looks like and how to make it accessible to young people.
The group is made up of 6 young people aged 16-25, who have a range of experiences with work and education. The group is bound together by their commitment to ensuring young people have access to quality work experience opportunities. The report has been made possible by a grant from the People’s Postcode Trust: a grant-giving charity funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
Through consultation with other young people and with support from The Careers & Enterprise Company, the Work Experience Action Group developed 5 aspects that make up a quality work experience placement, for SMEs to consider. These areas included preparation and planning, creating an enabling and inclusive environment, skills development, feedback and evaluation and follow-up.
The project was established following the Youth Select Committee’s inquiry into access to work experience last year. The committee of young people found there was a multitude of inequalities that affected young people’s access to good quality work experience across the UK. It also concluded young people from a rural area or from a low socio-economic background are amongst those that were facing a disproportionate lack of access. Employers from SMEs also expressed how they are willing to give good quality work experience but find that they are lacking the comprehension to construct an accessible environment to support all young people.
Commenting on the toolkit, Amanda
Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair of the British Youth Council, said: “We know there
are unacceptable levels of inequality affecting young people’s access to good
quality work experience across the UK.
“The Work Experience Action Group have developed a toolkit which will enable more employers to not only make their work experience placements more accessible but will also ensure they can provide high quality opportunities.”
Creating Work Experience hubs for 11-18 year olds was one of the top issues in the UK Youth Parliament’s 2017 Make Your Mark ballot. The ballot saw almost 950,000 young people vote on issues that mattered most to them.
The British Youth Council have supported calls for the Government to take steps to deliver a fairer society by supporting younger people in the housing and employment market.
In a new report published by the House of Lords Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provision, the Government is also asked to ensure local authorities have specific planning policies to meet the housing needs of young people. The Committee also goes on to recommend the Government make substantial increases in funding for Further Education and vocational training to tackle unfairness between those to go onto Higher Education and those who do not.
The British Youth Council also backed calls for make the government to make PSHE a statutory subject that is inspected by Ofsted and includes education about housing and finance matters. The national youth council has made repeated calls for statutory PSHE over a number of years. In a ballot of over 1.1 million young people, which was coordinated by the British Youth Council, a curriculum that prepares students for life was one of the top five issues.
Commending on the report findings, Lewis Addlington-Lee, Deputy Chair of the British Youth Council said: “The British Youth Council welcome the findings of the House of Lords Committee on Intergenerational Fairness and Provision.
“The Lord Committee’s findings make it clear more affordable housing, the introduction of statutory PSHE and investment in services such as youth provision and a Government willing to listen to the needs of young people will help us to tackle international unfairness and importantly build a fairer society.”
The national youth-led charity believes there is a lack of affordable housing for young people in some rural areas; exacerbating the problems that young people face in remaining in or moving into rural areas to work and live. The British Youth Council believe that there is a need to look for sustainable solutions to rural housing problems.
Last month, Youth Employment UK launched their Youth Voice Census with support from The Careers and Enterprise Company and Pearson Education. The leading-edge census will act as an innovative platform for young people aged 16-24 to voice their opinion on a variety of issues from work experience to going to university and everything in-between, allowing them to say how they’re really feeling.
Young people will be able to complete the census confidently knowing that their views will better inform a variety of organisations about the situation and circumstances they and other young people are facing. Youth Employment UK will share the results to better inform policy, provision and resources.
I’m a proud ambassador for Youth Employment UK and I’ve been privileged enough to have been working with the organisation since January 2016. During the last two years, I’ve seen the organisation go from strength to strength, I feel honoured to have been part of a number of projects aiming to help other young people move into employment or start their own businesses. Youth Employment UK are working hard to tackle levels of unemployment across 16 to 24-year olds in the UK and they’re doing so much great work – it’s amazing. The new Youth Voice Census is certainly a further step in the right direction as tackling youth unemployment remains one of the biggest challenges facing the UK’s labour market. Whilst I was going through school and sixth-form, I never had the opportunity to voice my opinion on issues like careers advice, apprenticeships and vocational courses. My school was one of the fortunate few in the Sheffield area to have a dedicated careers adviser, however, I still couldn’t help but feel somewhat forced into remaining in education rather than taking up a vocational option whether that was after my GCSE’s or sixth-form.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m currently studying Business and Enterprise Management at Sheffield Hallam University and I’m loving every minute of it – it’s certainly the perfect course for me, but it was a long road to get to university. In hindsight, A-levels weren’t for me, I put myself through 2-years of A-levels and had to fight so hard to get those top grades whilst I could have chosen to do a vocational BTEC business course and I feel I would have not only scored higher grades this way, I would have enjoyed it so much more too. The new Youth Voice Census launched by Youth Employment UK allows young people like me who have had negative experiences surrounding various elements of education and employment to share their opinion and protect young people making these choices in the future!
By being able to voice their opinion and make it count, I feel young people are likely to have a much more positive mindset when it comes to making similar decisions in their future careers. Your mindset can influence everything you do and if young people feel their opinion is valued, they will feel supported when moving into the next stage of their careers.
Whilst I’ve been working with Youth Employment UK over the last two years, the biggest issue I feel we need to tackle is managing employers’ expectations. They regularly expect young people to be ‘work ready’ and too many companies aren’t prepared to take a risk on a young person who has little experience. Employers need to start putting their hands in their pockets and training young people as they start their careers. I’ve interviewed a variety of young people across the UK who often feel disheartened when they’ve applied for countless jobs, and in some cases, not even received an email from the employer telling them they’ve been unsuccessful – that’s wrong. Important life skills aren’t properly developed in schools, young people are expected to gain these skills from experiences outside of school and that’s why so many aren’t considered ‘ready’ for employment as they just haven’t had the opportunity to excel themselves.
It’s important that careers advice and work experience must become an essential part of the curriculum. My advice to any young person reading this is to complete the Youth Employment UK Youth Voice Census and together change future young lives for the better. If you’re an employer or charity organisation, please help us to spread the word – it’s important that this census makes a difference.