Our Bright Future: a stepping stone to employment for young people
By Anna Maggs, Communications Officer for Our Bright Future
The proportion of 16-24 year olds who were unemployed in June-August 2018 was 10.8%; that’s 464,000 young people (McGuinness, 20181). To give this figure some context, that is more than the entire population of Edinburgh. If you have recently left school and are armed with a desire to make a difference, it seems there’s limited opportunity. Faced with this uncertain future, it is unsurprising that the mental wellbeing of young people is reported to be at the lowest ever reported (Prince’s Trust Youth Index, 20182). But amongst these overwhelming statistics there is a glimmer of hope; young people are using their talents to help create a greener future through a ground breaking national programme.
Our Bright Future is a £33 million programme funded by the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund. Beginning in 2016, this five year programme aimed to empower 60,000 young people to become skilled and engaged citizens. As we approach the midpoint of the programme, 80,000 young people have already been involved and the programme continues to gain momentum. Our Bright Future is formed of 31 projects. They cover all corners of the UK; from Cornwall to Glasgow, Swansea to Belfast. The beauty of the programme though is the variety of projects. Being a partnership programme, hundreds of organisations are involved in providing unique and specialised opportunities that young people may not have ever considered. Led by The Wildlife Trusts, it firmly falls within the environmental sector. Some young people are planting community orchards, while others are designing apps to tackle environmental issues. All of them are learning to love nature.
The programme is aimed at 11 to 24 year olds, working with young people from all walks of life. Within the 80,000 there are those at risk of homelessness, graduates, young people with visual impairment and aspiring young entrepreneurs. But does involvement in a programme of this nature lead to employment? At the end of 2017, a number of the projects followed up with their
436 alumni in the 18-24 age bracket and reported that 175 had secured paid work in positions such as Ecosystem Analyst, Recycling Engagement Officer and Farm Support Worker. Example employers were the Marine Stewardship Council and Yorkshire Water. It is therefore clear that not only are young people securing work, they are utilising the environmental skills that they have learnt on their project to enter the environmental sector. The projects also found that 52 young people
secured paid training or apprenticeships and that 159 had started another learning opportunity. Clearly, Our Bright Future opens multiple doors for young people.
To give a flavour of the breadth of the projects and the employment that some of the young people have progressed to, here are the stories of Daniel, Ellie and Rachel.
Daniel: Community Ranger at the National Trust
23 year old Daniel grew up on a council estate. He dropped out of college before he was able to complete his A Levels and as a result he lost his confidence. He didn’t know what jobs he would be able to do and felt lost. However, he did enjoy visiting National Trust properties and he began thinking about working outdoors. He spent two years on the Our Bright Future project run by the National Trust, ‘Green Academies Project (GAP)’. This enabled him to complete an NVQ in land-based conservation. Daniel grew in confidence and practical skills and following his completion of the project he secured a job as a Community Ranger for the National Trust. He now leads the GAP project for 11 to 16 year olds. He finds that because he has a similar background the young people who attend the group they can really relate to him.
‘Volunteering and studying with GAP has given me the chance to do something that I have always wanted to do. Without the help and support of everyone involved in GAP I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go from a student to staff and progress on to do a job that I love.’
Ellie: GIS Data and Evidence Officer at Ribble Rivers Trust
25 year old Ellie gained a postgraduate degree in biodiversity and conservation from the University of Leeds. She had returned home to the Yorkshire Dales and found herself working in a local supermarket stacking shelves. She was itching to work in the environmental sector and was able to secure herself a graduate trainee position at the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT). This is how she got involved with Our Bright Future. The Green Futures project is run by YDMT and
Ellie became a youth representative on the project Steering Group. Her interest in governance grew and she soon became a trustee for YDMT. From this experience she has been able to secure a job as a GIS and Evidence Officer at the Ribble Rivers Trust.
‘One of my main aims in life is to make a positive difference to this world and becoming a Trustee for a charity such as YDMT is one way in which I can do this.’
Rachel: Beekeeping Tutor at Blackburne House
Rachel joined the BEE You project at Blackburne House aged 22. BEE You offers a 15 week course and in this time she learnt the theoretical and practical elements of beekeeping including honey extraction, product making and how to market her products. She adored beekeeping and became the Bee You Our Bright Future Youth Forum member which broadened her experiences further. After completing the course, she trained as a beekeeping tutor and qualified as a teacher in May. She has now secured a job teaching the beekeeping course that she first took at Blackburne House!
‘Being involved with the BEE You project and the Our Bright Future Youth Forum has contributed massively to my personal development and improved my mental wellbeing’
Our Bright Future may only offer short term opportunities for young people, from a few days to 12 months, but it’s clear that it can be a launch pad for young people starting their careers. It gives them hope when they often don’t know where to start. It allows them to dip a toe in the water and gain work experience and training that can equip them and boost their CV. It plants a seed of an idea that perhaps they could be a beekeeper for example. More and more young people are thinking
creatively about their futures. Our Bright Future has a Youth Forum that steers the programme. We want young people to feel empowered for their future rather than fearful of employment uncertainty. But to meet the needs of the 464,000 young people who are struggling to find work more opportunities need to be made available to them. Our Bright Future is only scratching the surface.
To find out more about the 31 Our Bright Future projects visit: www.ourbrightfuture.co.uk/projects