Tackling Youth Unemployment: Interview with YEUK

In her ongoing series of interviews with activists for young people, Lewisham youth worker Melissa Jane Knight talks to Alexa-Jane Moore, Youth Ambassador for YEUK (Youth Employment UK)IF_Blog_Alexa_Jane_Moore3

MJK: Hi Alexa-Jane. Can you tell me briefly what YEUK is and why it was set up?

A-J M: Youth Employment UK is a campaigning and membership organisation that was founded in 2012 by Laura-Jane Rawlings to tackle youth unemployment through coordination. There are a lot of brilliant opportunities available for young people that don’t reach them. In addition, people don’t share good practice. These mistakes are perpetuated, to the detriment of young people. YEUK joins the dots!

Currently there are 35 Ambassadors across the UK. What kind of roles do they perform?

The role of the YEUK Youth Ambassador is indicative of their personal career goal. Therefore if a YEUK Youth Ambassador has the skill set and would like to own their own business, they are aligned accordingly. I would like to become a career advisor and this is why I work on Chance to Shine. I also help with careers advice with the other YEUK Youth Ambassadors and CV direction.

If a young person thinks they have done everything to become employed – education, volunteering, internships – and still they find it a struggle to get work, what can YEUK offer?

At policy level, we take that young person’s experience into the conversation. The more young people let YEUK know what it is actually like to be a young person today, the more we can help and tell those in power what it is actually like. We take their experiences to employers and tell them about the amazing young people who are hardworking and ambitious. For the young person we remind them they are not alone; it is hard. For today’s young people, finding work is a full-time job. They need to get up each day and focus their efforts at the sectors that are employing. Chance to Shine helps young people promote themselves to over 18,000 employers. We name these in our e-mag ACE. Doing this they shrink down applying for every job and focus on what makes them the right candidate for the job [they want], and become their own brand. We hear it can take up to 1 ½ years. Coming soon will be the postcode finder in the youth platform, showing young people local employers/training providers, reducing the barriers into the world of work.

How can a young person access your e-magazine ACE?

Young people are welcome to become free members. The application is online. It’s quick and easy. If they do that, they will get ACE sent to them every month before it goes on the website. There is also access to it on the website (www.yeuk.org.uk), where it stays until the next ACE is published.

There is a misconception that young people today don’t want to work, that they are workshy and unprepared to put the hours in as well as being unskilled. What do you say to that?

That is a big problem that we deal with a lot. Through the events we attend and the contact we have with our 16–24 year-old members and the YEUK Youth Ambassadors, we know this isn’t true. Young people today are highly driven. They come out of the education system ready to follow their aspiring dream; however, the road to that is longer than they are led to believe. Due to this, the young person’s passion digresses. It makes me sad and makes me wonder what we are doing to our young people.

If you were Prime Minister, what policies would you change or introduce to help young people?

If I was Prime Minister, I would give schools a significant budget for careers advice. This has all been cut and is vital for young people to prosper. The quality and quantity of careers advice in educational institutions is widely varied, so it needs to be streamlined. Young people want to contribute to society but there seems to be barriers at every opportunity. Take for example the rise in tuition fees. To me, this promotes the idea that higher education is now becoming a privilege rather than a right. Meritocracy is being removed in the UK. If I were Prime Minister, I would lower fees and bring in more scholarships for potential students. What I would say is that I would listen to young people’s opinions. However, I believe that young people need to vote. The current government tailors its policies to the “grey generation”, as they are the ones who keep them in power. If more young people voted, maybe politicians would listen as we would have the power to change things. Bite the Ballot is a great organisation trying to get young people to vote. We try to promote this to our members (http://bitetheballot.co.uk).

YEUK has put together a charter. Can you tell me in more detail what’s in it?

The Positive Youth Charter is the heart of Youth Employment UK’s work. It asks employers and educators to consciously consider their part in reducing the world-of-work barriers that exist for young people. For young people it draws their attention to their part. The Youth Charter can be seen via http://www.yeuk.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Positive-Youth-Charter.pdf

What are some of the thoughts and feelings you’ve experienced from the young people you’ve come across?

Desperation, depression and loss of hope. We have met young people who have been trying [to get a job] for up to four years. Some who have experienced times of being suicidal and others who are beginning to realise that it isn’t as easy as they thought it would be.

What advice would you give a young unemployed person who is beginning to suffer these problems?

That it is normal to feel low at times; however, it’s not okay to get so low that you are suffering, and speaking to a professional is recommended. For those who are beginning to suffer: get in touch read the e-mag ACE and refocus. It’s hard, but you’re not alone. You personally haven’t failed. Talk to YEUK through any of our channels. We will get your voice heard.

Finally, how do young people get involved in YEUK?

Young people can get in touch and ask YEUK anything and we’ll help in whatever way possible. They can pick up the phone and call the office, through the email addresses on our website and also through the NEW forum onsite. Tweet us, Facebook us too! Plus each month in the e-mag ACE we highlight (in orange) the events where young people can come for free and meet the team, the CEO or both.

If you are a young person actively helping other young people, and would like to be part of this series, please contact [email protected].