A Generation of Born Social Activists

CEO Phil Barron reflects on Young Westminster Foundation’s business webinar on Thursday 22nd April.

Following the recent launch of YWF’s needs analysis, Our City, Our Future, we are hosting a series of webinars for our community. Key issues that came out of the report include the impact of Covid-19 on young peoples’ lives, health and wellbeing, community and spaces, education and employability. YWF’s peer researchers co-designed the research and were paid to conduct surveys with their peers.

With increasing unemployment levels for young people, YWF is prioritising a focus on employability. Last week we brought together organisations from across our membership, funders and business partners with a webinar focusing on how we can best meet the needs of young people through Westminster businesses.

We hosted a panel of experts with a fascinating discussion facilitated with the electric energy of Carl Konadu from 2-3 Degrees. Carl is a thought leader, mentor and speaker who is driven by the desire to see young men mature from boyhood to manhood.

Carl has led the development of the Mastering My Future Programme which raises young people’s awareness of the employability opportunities and different industries through inspirational workshops, mentoring and work experience.

Introducing the discussion with a story of a young person coming along to visit Addison Lee as part of the MMF programme, Carl highlighted the nervousness that can be experienced by young people when entering a corporate building, a feeling of not belonging. Businesses opening up to young people can help counteract this and we’re really grateful to our business partner who have been involved in the programme so far.

Dina Papamichael, a Senior Consultant at Rocket Science, talked about her insights from leading the needs analysis. An important trend observed by Dina is the intense pressure that young people feel from all sides and from within themselves.

Young people spoke about wanting positive building blocks, more advice on specific jobs, demystifyed job roles, to meet real people and have less pressure on academic paths.

Fahmim Chowdhury, Management Accountant at McKinsey and Company and YWF Trustee, talked about his experiences of internships. Internships can help young people enjoy the process of discovering themselves. There is scope for businesses to develop more interesting and meaningful paid internships.

Tracey Fuller, UK Head of CSR at BNP Paribas, suggested that businesses need to look inwards and reach out to managers to get involved. Telling stories of the impact of getting involved in programmes supports young people to inspire each other.

Tracey spoke about the need to communicate to teams the impact of the pandemic on young people and use this opportunity to get real engagement. One way BNP Paribas is supporting young people is through facilitating virtual work experience.

The importance of digital skills was a common area of discussion. Guy Sellers, the CEO of Total Media, emphasised the need to take digital seriously including its creative aspect. Fahmim talked about how tech is going to be the biggest driver for change along with resilience.

Young people coming through the pandemic are learning ways of adapting to overcome adversity at a young age. Total Media provide some great inspirational workshops for young people to get into the tech industry.

Carl suggested that the focus on digital skills however needs to be underpinned by some basic skills for example learning about digital etiquette.

Matt Bell, Director of Corporate Affairs, Grosvenor Group shared with us his experiences of setting up a youth forum and meeting a new generation of born social activists who are akin to fighting for change. This chimes with the findings of our research which found that young people are optimistic about the future. Despite setbacks and challenges, young people want to have agency to inform social and political issues that they care about.

Matt spoke about the need for businesses to be brave on their response; scale up opportunities, advocate and address diversity.

I was struck from the webinar by a strong desire and passion to engage with partners and collaborate to provide better futures for young people as we come through the pandemic.

Tracey called on other businesses to commit time, money and people to support this work. We hope to continue strengthening our partnerships with local organisations to open doors for young people. If businesses can harness their passion to make change, we can all positively impact both our communities and the future of work in Westminster.

YWF is calling for partners to come together and engage in a conversation. If you want to join us then get in touch!

Find out more about how you can partner with us here.

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