World Youth Skills Day: An Interview With Sophie from Conscious Youth C.I.C
Today is a crucial reminder of the significance of empowering young people with essential skills and knowledge for a brighter future. On this World Youth Skills Day, we wanted to feature our partnered charity, Conscious Youth. Founded by Sophie Simpson and Serena Johnson in 2016, they aim to enrich the lives of young adults through mentorship, sports, arts education, cultural exploration, health & well-being, and public service.
We had the privilege of interviewing Sophie, where she shared her inspiring journey of starting Conscious Youth, shed light on what Generation Z values in the workplace, and discussed how organisations can foster inspiration and support for the upcoming generation of the workforce.
How and why did you start Conscious Youth?
Conscious Youth was formed in 2016 to inspire and empower young people aged 12-24 from the most marginalised and disadvantaged communities, where opportunity and investment is lacking. Our work challenges inequalities by creating opportunities for young people to influence change and make a positive contribution to their communities.
We use Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) as our principles for engagement. This means that our projects start with learning conversations which explore young people's passions, interests, skills and how they feel about the community in which they live.
Our work is shaped and led by young people, providing them with the skills, resources, and knowledge to develop and deliver the projects which matter to them.
What inspired you to start working with young people?
I was inspired by the trust they showed in me to support and guide them in a project that changed their lives. These young people were deemed as disengaged yet week-in, week-out, they turned up to sessions to learn new skills, meet new people and create projects that they could be proud of.
What challenges have you faced within your role?
The challenges (believe it or not) have not been from the young people. It has been [faced by] us as a charity having to prove ourselves and make people see what they deemed as impossible - as possible.
Learning how to navigate the funding arena has been another one - all funders work differently. Trying to find funders that support an organisation that is 100% youth-led was hard in the beginning but has got easier.
Within my role, I have had to adapt to working in the community. Coming from a corporate background, I have had to learn how to work collaboratively but also keep my 'business head’ on.
What do you feel organisations could do to help with the employment of Generation Z? How do you feel organisations could help broaden Generation Z’s skillsets/help further their careers?
It's crucial for organisations to recognise the value of young people and acknowledge that they possess a unique skill set, albeit different from what may be traditionally required. By embracing this, organisations can not only learn from the younger generation but also effectively connect with and cater to their needs.
What has been the impact of fostering youth minority-led initiatives?
Magical things have happened. For example, we have had a group create a social action project to bring back their local park. They raised £90,000 to bring it back. However, the most important thing is that they learnt they have more power than they realise and if they come together, they can make change happen.
What have you seen whilst working with Conscious Youth that sets Generation Z apart from other generations who are currently in the workplace?
They think creatively. They also want to find solutions to make life and things easier and faster.
How do you feel Generation Z differ from other generations on their goals for employment?
In my experience, Gen Z is not keen on the traditional desk-bound job anymore. They want something more thrilling and unconventional, and they value the freedom to work remotely while travelling. The members of Conscious Youth are ambitious and aspire to have exciting careers. For instance, one of them dreams of becoming a brain surgeon, while others are interested in fields like criminology. Some members align their careers with their personal interests. For example, there's a gamer who aims to become a game developer, but they face the challenge of meeting professionals in that field who can serve as mentors. They see all these interesting careers on TV, but they struggle to find the right connections in-person who can provide guidance and experience in these fields.
I believe the key question is, “how do we get them these opportunities to meet different employees?” - because realistically the options they have at career fairs usually offer the same options as twenty years ago.
How do you feel employers could engage with these aspects of Generation Z?
[Gen Z] value perks that you might not get in your traditional job. Things like gym memberships and free beverages. However, the crucial factor lies in revitalising career fairs and involving a wider range of industries to spark inspiration and nurture their ambitions.
It's important for Gen Z to engage directly with professionals in their desired fields to gain a better understanding of the experiences and pathways to enter those industries. Currently, they lack the necessary knowledge and insights, so creating opportunities for meaningful conversations and mentorship is essential.
What are the top 5 most effective skills that the members of Conscious Youth have learnt since joining?
Communication, public speaking, ‘how to own their truth’, managing conflict and ‘how to reflect’ are the ones that come to mind.
Generation Z is known for valuing activism. Tell us more about how you see this in your projects.
We deliver a programme called ‘Voices to Action’ - this is where we give young people the opportunity to make change in their communities. If they don’t know how. We give them the skills, knowledge and confidence to make change happen.
We also deliver a programme called ‘Breaking Barriers’ which is a leadership programme. We provide them with the skills, knowledge, resources and confidence to apply for opportunities on local governing boards, panels, committees and civic leadership within Kirklees.
We also look to support those who are interested in business, local government, community, education, and criminal justice.
To find out more about Conscious Youth visit: https://consciousyouth.co.uk/ and follow them on social media to stay updated.
Saturday, 15 July, 2023
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- Transgender Awareness Week: Advocating for Workplace Inclusivity and Equity Friday, 17 November, 2023
- Reflecting on Black History Month 2023: Honouring Influential Black Women Friday, 3 November, 2023
- World Youth Skills Day: An Interview With Sophie from Conscious Youth C.I.C Saturday, 15 July, 2023
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