Small businesses and youth organisations join forces to help young people

Did you know that small businesses - unlike larger employers - have relatively little involvement with organisations that support young people outside of school?

This revelation comes as a the United Futures campaign, which aims to make it easier for employers and youth organisations to collaborate, announces a series of networking events, designed to bring together local businesses and youth projects.

The project has identified seven key areas where businesses of any size can use their expertise and resources to directly benefit young people. The areas are:

  • Volunteering
  • Work experience
  • Other activities involving young people such as workplace visits
  • Training and expertise
  • Governance and management
  • In-kind donations
  • Financial support

We have spoken to a couple of local businesses and entrepreneurs about how they are supporting young people in the community.

The Step Up! Project in Macclesfield works to match local business leaders with young people in a mentoring capacity. One of the mentors, Phillip Shaw, runs a catering start-up called Fork2Plate. Having left school with few qualifications he went on to become a professional chef.

"As a person who struggled throughout my education it was not until I turned 50 that I found out why - I suffer from dyslexia. I made adjustments and put systems in place to help me cope. I have first-hand experience of failing but this never stopped me from having a career," he says.

Shaw felt that this experience gave him the sufficient know-how to inspire others. In just a few months of being a mentor for an unemployed local youth, the young person has stopped smoking and appears more motivated about finding work. He is also now thinking of pursuing a career in horticulture whereas before a flat "I don't know" would be heard when asked what he would like to do in later life.

"It's so rewarding to pass on these skills and watch someone benefit from your experience and support," says Shaw.

Similarly, fundraising and volunteering are other highly effective ways that local businesses can make a big difference to young people, which in turn have associated business benefits.

Gareth Mepham runs The Wayz youth project in Berkshire, which supports young people with moderate learning difficulties. He receives support from a local branch of engineering company Cadence. The company donates resources and prizes for club activities and events. A member of senior management also sits on their board.

The business has greatly benefited from the partnership. "We encourage employees to take an active part in charitable events that support the local community. This enriches them with greater knowledge and understanding of the community where they work and also helps the community get a better understanding of what we're all about," explains Carol Staniford from Cadence. "As an employee, knowing that you are working for an organisation that takes social responsibility seriously, can be a key contributor to an individual's overall job satisfaction and a reason to want to work there."

United Futures is a Department of Education funded initiative led by the charities Business in the Community, National Children's Bureau and UK Youth.  It aims to make it easier for employers and youth organisations to work together to support young people across England. Since launching in January 2012 it has mobilised the national support of Accenture, the British Council of Shopping Centre's, HSBC, Land Securities, O2, Samsung, Starbucks and VISA Europe.

To find out more about United Futures or to attend an event in your area, contact Lucy Allen on lucy@ukyouth.org or 0203 137 2911.

Follow United Futures on Twitter, @United_Futures

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