"We had all read about young people not being able to get jobs. And at school, everyone’s handing in their CVs and trying to get jobs for experience. But you need experience to get experience.
What we found out doing our Envision project was that not knowing how to get a job is as much a problem as the lack of jobs available. It’s a combination of both.
It’s a lot about how young people present themselves. We learned that it’s important to be yourself rather than just saying generic things – showing you’re a real person. It’s also really important to be meeting new people - learning how to network - learning how to be yourself with different people.
There’s definitely a misunderstanding about what young people think the employer wants.
And to be honest, there’s a certain unwillingness from some young people to change the way they present themselves. It’s a reputation thing and it puts employers off.
We decided we’d hold an employment fair to help students find a job but make it a lot more interactive and practical than the usual job fairs.
It was when we started contacting companies that we had our first major hiccup. We basically thought everyone knew how to write a letter and one of the boys sent an email without running it past the group. The email was so bad the person emailed our head teacher to say that if they were a future employer then he wouldn’t even look at his CV!
It was a good lesson to learn. That’s when we sat down and said ‘right guys, this is serious’. Rebecca, our Team Mentor, spent the next session teaching us how to write a proper letter. It’s so useful to know and you don’t get taught that at school.
In all we contacted about 20 or 30 companies and 18 of them came to job fair on the day. We had speed networking, CV workshops and lots of different companies talking about what they were looking for in employees.
One of the companies, At&T, managed to sign up lots of young people to their mentoring programmes. They were really interested in building links with our school so they were really pleased to be able to come and meet the students.
Another girl managed to get on the St John’s Ambulance Service and I met a barrister who I’ve stayed in contact with and has offered me advice. And loads of people got their CVs edited.
What I learned is that the two biggest problems stopping young people from getting jobs are not being open-minded enough and low self-esteem.
Some young people have this idea that an employer is magically going to understand who they are.
They’re not making the effort to understand or get to know the employer and they don’t realise that they have to make an effort to show who they are, what they do and what they care about. It’s that expecting everything to come to them.And the other thing is self-confidence or self-esteem - why would a company come and let me do two weeks of experience. They don’t do that or they won’t.
I’ve noticed the difference being in an inner city state school. Most people in our school think that because our parents don’t have contacts, that they’re not used to being in a corporate world, that they’re not gonna get anywhere as they don’t know anyone.
They don’t realise that if you put yourself out there and network despite the way you speak or what your background is you can get those jobs. That’s the biggest mistake. That’s our biggest down fall – people thinking they can’t.
The most valuable thing that I’ve learned through this project is that it’s not just about qualifications.
You have to know how to network, you need to know how to be on the ball and react to problems. You’ve got to be able to work with people. The problem is people just list skills but they don’t say what they mean or show examples of what they mean.
You don’t have to use these generic phrases that you’ve heard all the time. You need to say it in a way that means something – something that shows you’ve done it or experienced that in some way. The most important thing is it has to sound real and personal."