Inspiring and empowering young people to have a voice is key to the work we do at Leicestershire Cares.
It is often the individual and communities who shout the loudest for equality in society that are those who don’t have it. Take away social standing, collective community and confidence gained through age and life experience, and you find a section of society which are even further from equality, often without a voice or confidence to shout at all, that being young people.
Through our Power to Change model, we use participation as a tool to create a platform upon which the voiceless can join together and mobilise to have a voice.
We work with our young people to create safe spaces where they feel that they can express their feelings without judgement. Allowing them to speak about relevant issues to them, in their own words and in a way that does “not simply reinforce adult perspectives and adult governance”. (Wyness 2006)
Who hears their voice is an issue, as the onus is on the adult to re-train their ear to overcome resistance to hearing a young person’s voice (Bennett Woodhouse, 2003), and it is part of our job, at Leicestershire Cares, to support the young people to make sure their voice is heard by decision makers. Often a combination of circumstances is needed for a young people’s voice to have influence, as the value of what the young people have to say is not appreciated in the wider world and their unique outlook is often overlooked by the establishment and status quo.
Leicestershire Cares doesn’t accept this, and strives to work alongside our young people and use participation to give them the skills needed to solve complex issues, empower them to take control, become leaders in their own lives and also their peer groups and communities. This engagement, grows them as humans and engaged citizens, becoming more confident, skilled and connected, resulting in developing into active agents of change in their community, and in their own lives.
Why have a Young People’s Participation Day?
The Young People’s Participation day was a chance to get our young people, from across all of Leicestershire Cares projects, together to take part in a number of fun and interactive co-production and participatory activities.
The even was held at the National Space Centre and as a teambuilding exercise the young people got to build and launch a rocket.
The focuses of the day
- Teambuilding and brining young people together – Power With
- Young People having their voices heard and identifying the barriers to employment for 16-25 year olds in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, and coming up with ideas and solutions on what can be done to change this.
- Young People will be discussing the new Leicestershire Cares Young People’s Steering Committee – What the young people want it to look like, what they feel comfortable being involved in, how often they will meet etc.
Employment issues for Young People in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland
Using participatory media production, the young people took part in a photo elicitation activity to explore issues and barriers to employment.
The young people we tasked with identify issues that are barriers for young people finding employment in Leicester/Leicestershire/Rutland.
They then had to take 5 photograph that represent 5 issues. They had to be creative and think outside of the box.
Afterwards, the young people’s photos were presented to the other groups, and they had to try and guess what issues were being portrayed. – Resulting in more issues being flagged as young people interpret images differently and decode the photos in their own way.
Entry level jobs now require experiences - We struggle to get in as we don’t have experience
Online privacy – Employerrs look through your social media
Disability – Access to buildings, workplace etc
Language barriers – Do young people need to speak ‘proper’? Language evolves, should we be listening to the message behind the words not the slang?
Misconceptions on appearance – Discrimination
Appearance – Judgement made on you for what you wear.
Young People (especially ones without family) don’t know what is acceptable
Young People don’t have money to buy smart clothes that they may only wear once
Education – Requirements of having grades excludes many with learning difficulties, or people that learn in different ways, or have had bad experiences at school that are not the fault of their own doing. Young People have different skills – digital natives for example.
What is more important? Grades or Experiences? Experiences - But how do you get the experiences, if you don’t have the grades?
Lack of job security - Zero Hours, Gig
Rejection – over and over again – I apply for hundreds of jobs but get nothing back – Hit’s your confidence and your mental wellbeing
Lack of jobs – Retail moving from public assessable spaces warehouses miles out of town and online.
City centres folding up and closing down. Loss of a environment with entry level jobs
An endeavour to get into the workplace
Job applications are complicated – many require you to fill out the Orgs online portal which will be different from another
Job applications need digital access – Hard to use phones to apply, and write and update cover letters, CVS. YP need laptops or access to computers
Jobs out of reach
Poor or no feedback – How can we improve our job applications when there is nothing coming back to us?
Jobs are high in demand. How do you stand out? Are jobs going to people they already know? How do we grow our professional networks when we don’t have families etc like others.
The endless cycle of applying for work – It knocks you down. It drains your energy
Volunteering is not regarded highly by employers. Employers look at what you have been paid for first!
Clocks - Time is always against you – But young people have loads of time on their hands – Too much time, which has turned toxic by constant knock back, low self-esteem and poverty
Young People have to balance part time jobs with education to get on. Education is expensive – Especially when you don’t have a safety net.
CEYP suffer from poor mental health. Some have to have counselling, visits to health professionals, meetings with Pas – This takes up valuable time to study or get a part time job – Some YP are time poor.
Uneven playing field – Power dynamics – These even occur once you are in the job.
Set up to fail even when you get a job – Tasks not transparent, line managers inexperienced and not people persons
Mindset – Don’t even try – you will get crushed
You always have a big dinosaur hanging over you
The job market is extinct
Leicester and Leicestershire and Rutland not good for traveling around - without a car
Jobs being created out in the countryside – You need a car or face long and expensive public transport
Higher wages are in London and other places.
Leicester losing young talent to other places
Minimal wage v Living wage
Travel loans to help people get to work until their first pay package
Why do you want a job? – Purpose, keep a roof over your head, routine, self respect
Jobs appear to be inclusive but are they? Hidden discrimination
What is the proper attire for a job interview? YP are told to dress smart, but for a job at Asda? Sometimes they turn up too dressed and get comments made at them. – You can’t win.
If you don’t have many clothes it can be stressful.
Campaign Plan – inform local businesses of issues facing young people to employment and explain that it is their problem too
The young people were tasked with creating a campaign plan of what they could do going forward.
What can we do today?
Use social media to invite local business to open a dialogue and conversation with us. Hear what they think, find out if they think young people are important and how we can work together to improve offers – work experiences, vol, jobs, transport
What can we work towards in 3 months?
Create poster campaign
Target Leicestershire Cares businesses – Poster in canteen, notice boards. Raise the issues, get people thinking, get it lodged in their consciousness
Start a dialogue – YP with Businesses – Steering group
What can we work towards in 1 year?
Presentation or a conference – invite businesses, MPs, people of influence – get them speaking with YP. Have dialogue to reach understanding
Young people present issues but also solutions
Young People’s Action on the day
Young people composed a social media message: Calling on businesses to open a dialogue with them to fight the rising youth unemployment crisis.
“Business have been closing down due to Covid, and jobs for young people have been drying up. As young people we are worried our job opportunities will be extinct. We want to give businesses the chance to consult with us to work on solutions for ALL of our futures. Get in touch!”
Key messages from the day
Why employ a young person:
- Give young people a chance
- Create shadowing in the workplace
- Attack the ‘lazy stereotype’
- Sitting on discomfort has helped us learn how to find solutions. This resilience is transferable into the workplace
- Young People are tech natives – communication experts and know how to research
- Young people give new perspectives and outlook. Different thinking
- Young people are fresher, and eager to learn and want to get on with life, and are excited
- Young people are also scared they will fail, so take extra care not to mess up. Conscientious
- Young people are interested to work for ethical businesses, and spend their hard earn money ethically.
- Young people want to earn money, get on in life, be successful, stop being a drain on society and pay taxes!
Young Peoples Comments about the day
“I am pooped. My brain hasn’t been this engaged since doing my exams”
“I was worried I wouldn’t enjoy it or get on with anyone. This is the first time I have met these people. But I had a great day and I have been really impressed.”
“It was nice to see people again. Face to face contact with people is awesome. Thank God for Leicestershire Cares”
“I’ve really enjoyed working together. So often we are left on our own to get on with life. It can result in things not getting done, and that leads to impacting on our confidence and self-esteem. It’s so easy to let yourself down. We’ve been conditioned by society that way. But working together gives you energy and ideas. We create a unique crazy way of getting the job done”
“With the right connections (us and the networks Leicestershire Cares has), and our vitality of youth, we can achieve real positive change – in our lives, and other young people.”
Find out more about how we empower young people
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Kellett, M. (2011). Children’s Perspectives on Integrated Services: Every Child Matters in Policy and Practice. Palgrave Macmillan.
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Wyness, M. (2006). Children, young people and civic participation: Regulation and local diversity. Educational Review, 58 (2), 209‐218.
Wyness, M. (2006). The Politics of Childhood: International Perspectives, Contemporary Developments. Children & Society. Volume 20, Issue 1. DOI: 10.1111/j.1099-0860.2005.00004_10.x