Having got two children through their teenage years and with another going through it, there is one thing that frustrates me no-end.
Lack of meaningful work for teenagers.
Most companies will not employ a young person before they have officially reached school-leaving age due to the many employment restrictions on young workers, which therefore means that young people cannot find employment until after the last Friday of June of the school year in which they are 16.
I remember having a part-time weekend job from the age of 12, as did Hubby which not only gave us a something to do, but also helped teach us essential life skills, like understanding the value of money, as well as instilling a good work ethic.
Although there is nothing that can be done about employment laws, young people are our greatest assets – they will shape our future and young people need to be positively encouraged to make a difference and gain much need experience that will help them make the difficult transition to adulthood.
The #iwill campaign promotes social action among 10-20 year-olds, which includes activities such as campaigning, fundraising and volunteering, all of which create a double-benefit – to communities and young people themselves.
Currently 4 in 10 young people aged between 10 and 20 get involved in activities that make a positive difference. However, research indicates that almost double this number would take part in things like campaigning, fundraising and volunteering if they had the chance.
Further studies confirm that social action can help young people thrive by developing 21st century employability skills, boosting access to further and higher education and supporting enhanced well-being among young people. It creates a double benefit – to young people AND communities.
The #iwill campaign is working with hundreds of partner organisations from the business, education and voluntary sectors to enable young people, wherever they live and whatever their background, to have access to social action.
So far more than 700 business, education and voluntary sector partners have committed to embedding social action into the lives of young people and I have been chatting to vinspired about their involvement with the #iwill campaign.
V•Inspired is the UK’s leading volunteering charity for 14 – 25 year olds and helps young people to make their mark on causes that they care about, whilst learning new skills and talents along the way.
Supporting young people to be work-ready is more crucial than ever. Over 1 million 16-25 year olds (that’s almost one in four) are not in education, employment or training. A quarter of a million of those have been unemployed for over a year. We help young people today to get a better tomorrow.
I spoke to V•Inspired to find out more about what they do and why they want to be part of the #iwill campaign.
What is youth social action?
If you want your child to learn new skills, find passion for a passion or cause and build up a network of useful and interesting people in their lives, then you should consider encourage them to participate in youth social action.
The dictionary definition of youth social action is “practical action in the service of other to creative positive change”. This means that it can include activities such as campaigning, fundraising and volunteering. Youth social action could mean volunteering at a charity shop. It could mean becoming a reading mentor for younger children. Or, fundraising to help support a local animal sanctuary.
As well as connecting young people with a huge range of volunteering opportunities through V•Inspired Exchange, we run a youth social action programme called V•Inspired Cashpoint. Cashpoint gives young people the power (and money!) to bring their own community project to life. Through this programme, young people are encouraged to think about what impact they could have on a cause or issue that they are passionate about and then design a project around it. They’re given up to £500 to make that happen and are supported by our team of youth workers to run the project. We’ve seen some amazing youth social action projects built from Cashpoint. Recently, a young woman called Rand who is based in Manchester used the Cashpoint programme to run a community art project to give young Syrian refugee children a safe space to engage with arts and get creative. As well as giving them a chance to make art, it also helped them to make friends and learn English together. We were incredibly impressed by this project and the enthusiasm and dedication that Rand showed to making a difference. Rand also told us that it helped her to learn about time management, organisation and budgeting and was an incredible bolster to her confidence.
What are the benefits of youth social action to young people?
Participating in youth social action has many benefits for young people. One of these, is its potential to help young people develop skills in an informal setting. This includes developing communication skills, building confidence and learning team work – all important factors for future employability. At V•Inspired, we have developed a range of tools that help young people to identify and talk about these skills, in a way that is understandable and useful to them. Recently, we launched a campaign called #GetVisible which helps young people to get a better understanding of the different skills that they learn from taking part in social action, and which shows them how these skills make them more visible to potential employers or when applying for further education. We put together a short quiz to help young people think about how what they learned whilst doing social action can make them more visible, and offered a free employability pack packed with hints and tips about applying for jobs. Find out more here.
Youth social action can also help young people to broaden horizons and raise aspirations. We know that taking part in social action and volunteering provides young people with an environment where they can consider their career direction and be inspired to develop future career paths. It also allows them to come into contact with a wider range of people who can help them understand the opportunities and pathways that are available.
As well as skills development, youth social action can help young people feel more involved with the communities they live in. Youth social action offers the chance to make a difference to issues or causes they care about, and encourages early civic participation. Helping young people to form a habit of social action will encourage them to become more active citizens across their lifetimes.
Participating in youth social action also has massive benefits to mental health and well-being. There’s a wide range of research which demonstrates that if a person is feeling low, then focusing on another can help. Social action can also help people (at all ages) to feel more energised and connected with communities and surroundings. Volunteering and social action has the potential to lower anxiety improve self-esteem and improve life satisfaction.
What are the benefits of youth social action to your sector?
V•Inspired helps connect young people with volunteering opportunities at charities across the UK. We’re really lucky in that we can see the benefits of youth social action on both sides; we can see the important news skills and experiences that young people gain, but we also get to see the impact that their support has on the charities and organisations that they are volunteering for. We work with thousands of charities, big and small, to help them find volunteers to help support them with a wide range of activities – from volunteering in charity shops, to being a digital volunteer and helping to run social media channels, to being a peer mentor. Through V•Inspired Exchange (our digital platform that allows young people to search for volunteering roles by keyword or location), we work with charities like Sue Ryder, Oxfam, the British Red Cross and the British Heart Foundation. But, we also work with many small, local community groups where the impact that young people who volunteer is keenly felt.
What are the wider benefits of youth social action to society?
The wider benefits of youth social action to society are huge. In the charity sector, we talk about the “double benefit” that social action has. The positive impact of youth social action is felt by both the young person doing it and the charity, cause of campaign that they are supporting through their activities.
People who volunteer and take part in social action (at all ages!) make a massive contribution to communities, charities and individuals. In 2016, V•Inspired helped 31,439 young people do 460,611 hours of voluntary work. That’s the equivalent of £2.3 million added to the economy. 93% of the volunteers we surveyed say they’ve learnt skills to help their community – and 91% say they’re confident about finding paid work (before volunteering, only 53% did).
At V•Inspired, we’re committed to getting even more young people to take part in social action, to helping them recognise the benefits it has to them and to making a habit of social action, so they continue to participate in social action across their lifetime to make an even greater impact.
A huge thank you to Ellena from V•Inspired for taking the time to answer my questions.
I am hugely proud that although my three teens all found work, they have also taken the time to volunteer, with Abbey even getting the opportunity to go to Gambia and help build a school!
What do you think of the #iwill project – will you be encouraging your teens to volunteer?
This is a collaborative post with Mumsnet and #iwill campaign.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.com