In September I left the British Youth Council after a year-long internship in the Fundraising Team. During my time, I worked across all the funding streams such as trusts and foundations, individual giving, and community and challenge events. I was so lucky in my role to have been able to gain such a wide range of experiences, not only in fundraising but also in youth voice and empowerment.
You can see the impact of the British Youth Council first hand when you meet the incredible young people it works with. I will never forget going to the UK Youth Parliament’s House of Commons Sitting and being blown away by the intellect, passion, and courage of the young people who spoke. I spent the whole time thinking that I would never have been able to talk so articulately and with such power in front of such a large group as a teenager! The Youth Voice programme is such a unique and special part of the British Youth Council.
Fundraising is central to the British Youth Council’s work, and one of my favourite duties in the intern role was getting to know our supporters individually, learning about the reasons they loved the British Youth Council and what made them give. It was also great to provide support for those who took part in challenge events for us, especially to watching them smash challenges whilst raising money for a great cause. We say it time and time again as fundraisers but it really is true – the support received from our donors and funders truly helps to make a difference. My own internship (funded by the Jack Petchey Foundation) demonstrated how fundraising can help to expand the capacity of charity and, in turn, increase its impact.
Another highlight came early on in my internship when I organised a drinks reception for supporters and alumni. It was brilliant to see so many people coming together to catch up, have a drink, and raise funds for the British Youth Council. We also had the opportunity to hear from Mita Desai, a former Chair of the trustee board. Mita has gone on to achieve great success and continues to fight for youth voice through the Young Trustees Movement. Stories such as Mita’s show the incredible impact of the British Youth Council and how it can have such an influence in shaping the lives of its beneficiaries.
Whilst I am sad to be moving on, I am so grateful for the experiences I had during my internship and for the insight it gave me into youth work – I must have enjoyed it because I’m now taking on a role in fundraising at another youth charity! If there was one thing I could ask of those reading this, it would be to please keep supporting the small charities that you love like the British Youth Council. Without your support they would not be able to empower young people to speak up, be heard and make real change.
Entering the world of work is hard. You might just be grateful for a position and dismiss the way you are treated in order to gain that golden ticket of a reference and work experience to progress to a graduate or entry level job. The reality is that graduates and school leavers are being offered internships in the UK and abroad that are not only unpaid but devoid in value for the future of that individual. At the British Youth Council, we believe that unpaid internships are ways for employers to reap the benefits of the young creative minds of today, without any cost.
We believe that internships should be required by law to pay the Real Living Wage. This will ensure that interns are able to take advantage of the opportunity to explore their career options without financial stress and the burden of taking on part time or extra work to fund their experiences.
Recently the European Youth Portal published a blog by a young woman who had experienced an internship that degraded her experiences as an educated, competent and enthusiastic employee. She was ‘relegated’ to making coffee for her employers and described her experience as ‘depressing’.
I am saddened that this was the case, as I too have experienced a traumatising internship experience abroad, that not only cost me thousands of pounds but led to a huge loss of confidence and trust in dedicating myself to another program. After landing in the USA (a country I had never been to before) I was informed that the job I had worked so hard to secure my visa for was no longer viable – this was working for a congressman, in one of the oldest and most respected establishments of the American state. To this day I have not received an apology or acknowledgement of the stress that this caused to me, never mind the financial strain this put me under.
Luckily, I have managed to move back with my parents and save up that money that has allowed me to pursue a meaningful and fulfilling opportunity as a paid International Programmes Intern at the British Youth Council. Here, I am able to utilise my experiences as a volunteer in this role as well as my academic knowledge of international relations. I feel valued in my role and have been given responsibilities that will allow me to make a proud impact on the organisation and its support of young people both nationally and internationally.
I hope that this next Parliament recognises the vulnerability of our young workforce in gaining those opportunities, that will set their attitude and outlook on work for life. Our young people need to be educated and protected in order to gain meaningful experiences that will contribute to them realising their potential, and paid a real living wage.