Helping young people face the future despite the headwinds
Helping vulnerable young people to face the challenges of the future
Right now, every young person in the UK is at a disadvantage. 16-34-year-olds are seeing the biggest fall in unemployment whilst those from low socio-economic backgrounds are hardest hit.
It is clear that COVID-19 will continue to affect lives and livelihoods into 2021 and far beyond. Just published, Ofsted’s third and final set of reports which looks at the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on children and young people finds that: “COVID-19 isolation is having a detrimental impact on children’s education an welfare, particularly the most vulnerable.”
When I founded the Jon Egging Trust in 2011 it was based on a vision that through inspiration and support, every young person can overcome adversity, identify their strengths and be the best they can be.
This sense of purpose holds true today more than ever.
As an organisation, we are an expert in delivering early intervention life-skills programmes (focused around our four pillars of inspiration, teamwork, employability and leadership). We know that the more young people disengage with learning, the harder and more costly it is, to get them back on track.
I had the pleasure of catching up with Bethany, one of our JET Ambassadors last week.
Bethany, now aged 19, was on our Norfolk JET Blue Skies programmes from 2013-2016. She was selected because she had low self-esteem, wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after school and was disengaging from learning.
‘In high school, I was distracted and had started to take the wrong path, which was affecting me and my grades. Fortunately, I was lucky enough that there were teachers who believed in me and knew what I was capable of and supported me to become part of the JET programmes. The Jon Egging Trust made me the person I am today. Every skill that I have, comes from the foundation that JET built with me when I was just 12. Every year with the programme I developed these skills and my personality blossomed. I love who I turned out to be and I owe it all to JET. ’
The right level of support at the right time is all that is needed to turn young people’s lives around and for them and to understand why learning is important to getting the right job and career for them. For some young people this could be an inspirational talk, which encourages them to think about a career in an area they had never thought of before, for others like Bethany (who are signposted to our Blue Skies programme) this might mean a three-year support package.
When I spoke to Bethany recently she was walking to her car after doing a 4hr shift at a supermarket, followed by a 5hr shift at a high street bank. Bethany currently works two jobs; she works for the online department packing groceries for delivery – with start times varying from 2 am to 4 am – whilst working during the day at the bank.
Despite being in the midst of a pandemic affecting the futures of every young person in the UK, Bethany was in great spirits. She explained that although working 6 days a week and doing unsocial hours, she was happy to be in employment when so many of her friends have lost their jobs. Not only that, working two jobs enables her to rent a house with her boyfriend and save up for her degree. Bethany explained to me that she was due to start a psychology degree this year (with the aim of doing a one-year law conversation at the end), but these plans had to be put on ice due to the health crisis.
I was incredibly impressed by Bethany’s determination and resilience. Qualities that she said she has gained from JET programmes:
‘Because of JET I have the skills and the confidence to pursue anything in life and the resilience to never give up and keep going because I know things will get better. I’ve been so grateful during this pandemic for many reasons, but especially grateful because I know that if I hadn’t spent those years with JET I wouldn’t be the strong and motivated person I am today.’
Whilst schools are under pressure to ensure that young people are back on track academically, at the Jon Egging Trust we know just how vital it is to ensure that young people are provided with the mindset, strategies and life skills to help them develop an inbuilt sense of confidence in themselves and their abilities, plus the resilience to deal with change, setbacks and uncertainty.
It takes a huge amount of determination to keep going when the world around you is in turmoil and it feels like the odds are stacked against you. It is even harder going if, for whatever reason, you don’t have a support network around you.
A huge amount of support is rightly being directed at jobs – the government has already provided 19,000 young people through the kick-start programme, and 9.6 million jobs have been supported via the Corona Virus Job Retention scheme at a cost of £41.4 billion.
A focus on young people’s job prospects is vital. As a member of the Youth Employment Group, we work alongside organisations focused on channeling resources in order to meet this need. As a youth engagement charity we also know that laying the early foundations for young people to develop and hone those valuable transferable life-skills is also critical to keeping them on track with their learning, and to follow their dreams.
At the Jon Egging Trust, we are working with schools and other youth organisations to respond to these needs providing solutions through resources like our JET Inspired films and free classroom resources which are set for launch in 2021.
Bethany has worked hard to make the most out of the current situation and she is determined to continue on a path that leads to working in law; despite the odds being stacked against young people at this time.
‘In the future I’m hopeful that I am able to complete my degree and pursue the career of being a solicitor, working my way up to building the life that I want for myself.’
‘Life isn’t easy for young people nowadays, there is always pressure to study but also to work and to build a life for yourself. If you study more than you work then you lack experience and if you work more than you study you lack education and qualifications. Do you study to gain qualifications or do you work two jobs to rent a house? These are the questions young people need support with. My sister and I are completely opposite as she chose to study and now it is so difficult for her to work. I chose to work and I now have the difficulty of trying to fit in my studies. Young people need support because these are hard decisions to make and they are stressful and now we are in a pandemic which only increases the difficulty.’
Whilst there is no doubt that over the years ahead we will see many more job losses, we are already seeing a growth in the digital industries and infrastructure construction projects. Another one of our Blue Skies graduates, Nathan, is currently working in his first job as an Assistant Quantity Surveyor for Balfour Beatty, working on the HS2 programme. So the more we can train young people to be resilient and equipped with valuable life-skills, the better positioned they will be to obtain jobs now in the future.
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