Future Voices: Giving young people the power and platform to share their perspectives and experiences on employment
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” – James Baldwin
The words of James Baldwin, an inspiring novelist and activist for change, ring true in so many ways right now as we face global challenges and real opportunities to redesign the future. What the Covid-19 outbreak has shown us so far in the UK is that change is undeniably needed: from the restructuring of our economies, the reduction of social inequalities, the expanded use of digital technology, to how we treat the environment. And it is young people who are feeling this most strongly, the world over, and who must be given the power and the platform to lead the change.
What is Future Voices?
With this principle at its heart, we launched the Future Voices digital space: a place for conversation, discussion and debate led by young people across the country on employment; the good, the bad and the ugly, spanning the past, present and future. This is a platform for young people to take hold of the conversation for themselves – to address the issues they see and experience in their daily lives and be given the tools to communicate these in whatever way they see appropriate.
So what does the Youth Futures Foundation do?
We’re an organisation established in 2019 to ensure that all young people – no matter their background – are able to access good quality, meaningful work. We exist to breakdown the barriers that many young people in difficult circumstances experience when trying to find a good job that’s right for them.
As an organisation we are working hard to:
- identify and inform others of what works to help young people into good jobs,
- invest in good practice and fund the programmes helping those young people facing barriers,
- ignite new ways of working and achieve lasting change
“I am incredibly lucky to have worked on the Youth Futures Foundation mission from the outset last year, establishing our vision to ensure all young people have fair access to good quality jobs. I’ve been privileged to speak to incredible young people, practitioners, policymakers and employer groups around the country about the issues that are facing young people and their employment opportunities. When we set off around the country last year to start these conversations and build our understanding, no one could have predicted the place we find ourselves in now. I’m tempted to say it changes everything – but actually, I don’t think it does. Many of the things we heard then are now more important than ever.” Anna Darnell, Head of Strategy and Partnerships.
“Many young people experience multiple deprivation factors such as being excluded, lacking qualifications, or not having a clear path after school, growing up in care, caring responsibilities, having a criminal record, homelessness, disability or long-term health conditions. There are also barriers which marginalised groups such as ethnic minorities have to contend with like disparities due to discrimination and implicit bias.” – Nyasha
We heard messages loud and clear, such as the role that poverty, discrimination, and an overemphasis on experience, have in creating considerable barriers for young people trying to enter work. Many talked about the impact that insecure work has on their ability to build experience – leading to no sustained history of employment due to jumping from different temporary work opportunities. They told us of the difficult impacts on their mental health from the process of trying to find work, often in places with fewer opportunities and poorly paid jobs in sectors that didn’t necessarily appeal to them. For some, especially those who had other personal issues or responsibilities in their life, being thrust into a competitive, confusing and cut-throat market for jobs with little clear navigation is an anxiety-provoking and sometimes distressing experience.
All these perspectives and experiences have shaped the development of our programmes and our strategy so far – and this is exactly how we will continue.
Why youth voice is important
As the well-known phrase tells us – ‘nothing about us, without us’. In some ways it is as simple as this. We cannot work to find effective solutions for young people’s futures without young people being part of the process – not if we want to genuinely change things.
“We have recruited two fantastic young people, Alex and Joel, to our Board of Directors (the people who make all the big decisions for us!). We were blown away by the applications we received and the deeply personal and powerful insights we heard that showed clear lived experience of the issues we were founded to improve. Alex and Joel, both in different ways, bring their own experiences and personal stories to our mission. In 2021 we launched our Future Voices Group, which will be an advisory group of young people who will be ongoing ambassadors to our organisation.” Anna Darnell, Head of Strategy and Partnerships.
This is exactly why we are launching the Future Voices Digital initiative. We want to harness the power of young people’s stories and experiences across the country to build an exciting and impactful platform led by young people. And importantly, these stories and perspectives will help to shape our work and efforts to effect lasting change. Afterall, “youth voice” means nothing without listening ears, a credible platform and genuine action.