This time last year, when I clicked the ‘Submit’ button on my Bank of England Youth Forum application, a wave of anxiety hit me. I thought, “I am the last person anyone would associate with enjoying maths or economics, and I definitely have no clue how to set up an ISA… why on Earth did I just apply to this?” A few moments later, after the initial anxiety had subsided, I realised this was exactly why I needed to apply; if I didn’t have a clue about the world of finance and economics, then other young people definitely share my pain.
My financial education in school consisted of a money management booklet being dropped on my desk, which I shoved to the bottom of my schoolbag. However, I wanted to get better at understanding how the economy worked, and to do this I knew I had to actively immerse myself in it. If someone had told me last year, that I would represent over 900 young people’s views on how a global pandemic financially affected them, or quizzed the Bank of England’s Chief Economist on the Bank’s transparency regulations, I would have laughed in their face.
After it became clear the Coronavirus outbreak would have a disastrous affect on our economy, a small group from the youth panel, formed an Immediate Response Team. We felt it was vital that we urgently gauged the national opinion of young people, so we created a survey, which asked: ‘How is COVID-19 affecting you, financially, as a young person?’ It was clear from the survey results, that there is a lot of uncertainty and anxiety from young people during this crisis, and many noted feeling that their future is up in the air. We wanted to share these concerns with the Bank and were given an opportunity to present our survey findings to the Bank of England’s Chief Economist Andy Haldane.
Presenting to Andy Haldane, with the Bank of England’s Immediate Response Team, was definitely the highlight of my time on the youth panel. For those of you, like me, who did not know, my brother informed me kindly over the dinner table the night before the presentation, that in 2014 Andy Haldane was named by Time Magazine as one of the world’s top 100 most influential people (no pressure, then). From lowering interest rates, to working with the Government to ensure we strive for environmental sustainability in our economic recovery plan, we held him to account on a range of issues. Voicing the issues that young people care about to influential institutions, like the Bank of England, allows you to have real impact in youth voice.
For me, joining the Bank of England Youth Forum, has been about asking young people what they think, listening to their concerns, and ensuring their voices are heard. I am sure you will agree with me when I say that now more than any other period in recent history, young people need to have a seat at the table. The BBC reported in a recent article, that ‘Under 25’s and women financially worst-hit [by COVID-19]’. Therefore, it is vital that young people are asking key questions, like: What does this mean for us? How can better educate our young people on economics? Are the Bank of England representing young people to the best of their ability? Only in answering questions like these can we ensure young people are properly represented.
Walking into the Bank of England for a meeting to discuss the impact of economic and financial education on young people, was a phenomenal experience. Although the Bank of England building was very elaborate and opulent which can make you feel a little intimidated, it served as a reminder of the reason I was there as a member of the Bank of England Youth Forum – to make the UK’s central bank, and the overall economic sector, more accessible to young people.
The Roundtable was held by Andy Haldane, the Bank of England’s Chief Economist, who sits on the Monetary Policy Committee, and was previously named by Time Magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people. Other attendees included representatives from the Financial Times, the London Institute of Banking & Finance, Russell Group, Money Saving Expert, and Young Enterprise & Young Money.
We discussed how economic education is often grouped under the term of financial education, or seen as less important. In reality, it is just as important, as economic literacy is key to understanding the way that the world we live in works. Economics affects our day-to-day lives in many different ways, which is why it is vital that those who create economic policy consider viewpoints from all groups in society. Therefore, we looked at strategies to encourage people from more diverse backgrounds, particularly BAME women, into economics.
We also discussed current initiatives to improve economic and financial education amongst young people. I was extremely impressed by the wealth of resources available to improve both financial and economic education, but I was also able to highlight that adequate economic and financial education rarely reaches young people. We examined some of the reasons for this. One of which was the lack of financial and economic education in the national curriculum, while teachers are uninformed, yet overwhelmed with resources. We then discussed potential strategies and solutions we could use to combat this.
Overall, the event was productive and eye-opening (to say the least), and I felt as if my perspectives and feedback, not only as a Bank of England Youth Forum Member, but as a young person were genuinely considered. I am sure that the meeting will provide the youth forum some food for thought going forward, particularly with the areas of our work regarding financial education.
I hope that the Bank of England’s work to promote youth voice in the economic sector, and influencing policy, will encourage other organisations and institutions to follow suit.
In a world that’s changing so quickly, with amazing new technologies appearing everyday, it’s more important than ever that some of society’s most established institutions open both their doors and their minds to the ideas and voices of young people. It’s brilliant to be able to say that, working closely with the British Youth Council and our members, the Bank of England are doing just that.
A few weeks ago, Ben Broadbent, the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, put himself forward to listen to and answer some of the thoughtful and important questions from the British Youth Council’s members. This was something really quite cool, knowing that Ben was happy to not only put himself out there to be questioned but that it was an opportunity members were keen to engage in. Particularly when it comes to money, banking and all things finances – a world that can so often be alienating to those not working in it – embracing these types of opportunities to elevate youth voice is what the British Youth Council is all about.
The questions posed to the Deputy Governor tell an interesting story about the current concerns of younger
Opportunities like this are so important if we all truly subscribe to the idea that young people can be the leaders of today, not just the leaders of tomorrow. For many institutions like the Bank of England, one of their most important aims has to be to stay relevant and accessible to each new generation; and what easier way to do this then to open themselves up to the ideas and questions of the very people who will one day be in charge. It can be quite easy to slip into the habit of being annoyed if there is no immediate answer to our questions, but without organisations allowing youth voice to into their structures, those questions would never get a fair hearing in the first place.
Small steps are the most important when working towards big changes, and I’m both grateful and excited to see how the Bank of England and the British Youth Council can continue to give young people the opportunity to influence how money affects everyone’s lives in the future. If institutions like the Bank of England can start to allow more and more young voices truly influence how they think, work and look, hopefully, it won’t be long until hundreds of others are joining them in doing so.