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Young people changed the election result; they’re changing lives too

Wednesday, 14 Jun 2017

Young people made their voice heard in last week’s general election. The best estimates suggest that over 20% more 18-24-year-olds voted than in 2015’s general election. That’s a remarkable figure. At this election, young people proved the commentarial and pollsters wrong. Tweet after tweet, article after article cautioned during the campaign that ‘young people don’t vote’ and that our assumptions about the final result must follow this logic.  What the commentators and pollsters were guilty of is sadly nothing new: writing young people off. It’s unlikely the same mistake will be made again with the votes of young people likely to have played a considerable role in the election result we woke up to last Friday.

It showed what those of us who have the privilege of working with young people already know to be true: that they are engaged, enthused and passionate about what they believe in and about helping shape a better future.

At WorldSkills UK our best ambassadors are the young people we work with. And we have an incredibly dedicated group of role models - our skills champions - who are former students and apprentices who’ve excelled in their careers by competing in our skills competitions. They are simply some of the best in the UK and many have gone on to represent the UK in the European and global finals of skills competitions and have the medals to prove it. They know the difference that competing has made to their own lives, careers, and futures; and what’s so inspiring is that they want to help develop the next generation to follow in their footsteps.

That's why our skills champions have been working with us and the Careers & Enterprise Company in areas of the country where good quality careers advice is needed most. They’ve been going into schools and talking to thousands of pupils about their experiences and giving a fresh, authentic perspective on apprenticeships and technical education – transforming preconceptions and opening up life-changing, exciting new opportunities. Feedback suggests this peer-to-peer careers advice is the way forward: 76% of pupils feel inspired after speaking to one of our role models and 100% of teachers are satisfied. Pretty impressive results!!

At WorldSkills UK we are not complacent about the benefits of young people engaging in and leading our work. It’s why we are working on our new youth strategy which will give the young people we work with an even bigger say in how WorldSkills UK works to reach out and impact even more young people. That's also why we are organizing a Youth Summit in November. As an organisation that exists to help accelerate young people's personal and professional development, I believe that this is a vital step in our evolution. I was delighted to see that the newly launched Institute for Apprenticeships is also taking this approach, with young people – including two of our skills champions – guiding its work through its apprentices’ panel.

Organisations that realise the value of young people’s insights are infinitely better for drawing on it. Commentators, pollsters, and yes, politicians, should take note! 

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