How inspiring a young person could protect your pension

Chantal Cooke is a passionate environmentalist and co-founder and Managing Director of the award winning Passion for the Planet, the UK’s only radio station focusing on health and environmental issues.

Passion broadcasts to London and the South on DAB Digital Radio and nationwide on the Internet: www.passionfortheplanet.com.

Sometimes when confronted with the enormity of our environmental challenges and the seeming lack of urgency displayed by our leaders, it’s easy to feel we are all doomed and that any contribution we make is pointless.

However, as individuals we can make a difference. We have enormous power – it’s just that we often don’t realise it. For every pro environmental action we take this year we are contributing to the solution.

“It is all of our responsibility to combat youth unemployment. Without their contribution the pensions of my generation will suffer. This is why I think it’s important for all businesses to help tackle youth unemployment by taking on a modern apprentice or offering a work experience placement.” stated Graham Hill Director of Verbatim, The Telephone Answering Service in a previous issue of The3rdi.

He is, of course, absolutely right. If we, as business owners and entrepreneurs, don’t encourage young people into the work place there really will be no one to look after us as we age and to pay for us as we retire.

There are lots of ways to help young people into employment. Modern apprenticeships are one option, work experience placements are another.

There is some useful advice from DirectGov on work placements here:
http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/YoungPeople/Workandcareers/Workexperienceandvolunteering/DG_066207

High schools and colleges also often look to place students with local businesses. They will usually do their best to match the student to the employer and will arrange an interview for you to meet the student before finalising the offer. Work placements can be anything from one day to many months. Generally if the placement is for a month or more then it’s considered good practice to pay expenses.

In the past the Government has had a number of schemes available to help employers take on young people, but many of these have fallen victim to spending cuts, including the Future Jobs Funds, which paid for training and a minimum wage for the young person for up to six months.

But just because our politicians aren’t willing to divert extra tax money to these areas doesn’t mean we can’t do anything ourselves or even that all routes of funding are closed. There are plenty of opportunities and plenty of benefits.

For example, you could take on a young person as an apprentice. This can be formal or informal. Employers will need to pay a salary and give the apprentices time off in the same way that they would for any other employee.

The apprentice may also be eligible for funding to help with transport or childcare costs or to supplement a low income.
For helpful information see http://www.apprenticeships.org.uk/

At Verbatim Graham Hill has helped many of his employees get their NVQ qualifications and he believes this has really helped both them and the company. “Our experience of encouraging continuous learning has shown us that achievement develops confidence, enabling individuals to attempt something outside their comfort zone. This then transfers into their working life and makes for a much more flexible and confident team” explains Graham.

One of the best people we have employed at Passion for the Planet came straight from University. We employed her based on her outlook and attitude, and took the time to teach her the skills she needed to operate effectively within the company. The results were brilliant – for all of us. She’s become a highly valued member of the team, contributing to a variety of areas within the business.

I’ve noticed that sometimes it’s just as difficult for the employer to recognize what a young person needs when they join a company, as it is for the young person to understand what the employer wants and needs.

Many schools are now inviting business people into the classrooms to talk to youngsters about the reality of life in the “real world”. I have recently given a few “guru lectures”, as some like to call them, to students locally and the feedback has confirmed that they have found the interaction both inspiring and useful. This is a good way to help young people understand what employers need, but it doesn’t necessarily help the employers understanding very much.

This is why I am excited about the Creative Partnerships http://www.creative-partnerships.com/ programme. It enables creative practitioners (artists, journalists, architects, radio presenters etc) to go into schools to work with teachers on a variety of creative projects in order to inspire young people and help them learn. I’ll be working with a school in Sussex helping to give the students a voice in the running of the school.

There were many aspects of this project that appealed to me, but one in particular stood out as an opportunity for my business in the long term. I run a group of radio stations called PASSION for the PLANET . I love radio, but for many people thinking about a career in the media, TV is the sexy choice and newspaper journalism is the intellectual choice. Radio gets forgotten and is often treated as the ‘poor second cousin‘.

By taking part in this project I have a fabulous opportunity to learn what inspires and motivates young people (after all it was quite a long time since I could claim to be a ‘young person‘). With that knowledge perhaps I can inspire more to think about a career in radio, and I can ensure that future work placements at Passion for the Planet are more fulfilling for all involved.

Enabling and empowering young people to go for a job that suits them and they will love is, I believe, one of the greatest gifts you can give. So don’t wait for the recession to pass and Government to hand out more cash, take action now to see how you and your company could help a youngster have a great future and you have a great retirement.

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