Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Where will our young people work?

Livity at work

Watch this, it moved me to tears...

This week I've been thinking about young people and, like a centaur looking to the skies, I've been following the Conservative party conference searching for signs of growth stimulation and job creation.

Today I met up with a group of women leaders and much of our conversation was around the plight of our own young people, stuck at home, unemployed or doing unpaid internships with no prospects for paid work in site. As the progeny of very capable clever women, the young people in question are university graduates with good degrees. We worried about what would become of their aspirations and enthusiasm, and pondered questions like what happens to the brain once you watch too many episodes of Homes Under the Hammer, and how a country can rebuild when its highest qualified graduates are struggling to contribute to the economy?

Earlier on this week I had the privilege of presenting the social enterprise award at the very glamorous Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year ceremony for 600 business leaders at the Hilton, Park Lane. These are the leading enterprise awards in the UK and the culmination of an exhaustive process. As you might expect, Ernst &Young really does its homework: applicants have to submit accounts as part of a detailed application and so making it to the finals is certainly an achievement in itself. To assist the judging process we have sight of company accounts which, as a social enterprise anorak, I found facinating because you get to see in detail how inspirational leaders like Sue Riddlestone from BioRegional built a business creating environmentally sustainable communities all over the world.

During the interview part of the process, I was able to meet and talk to fellow Twitter enthusiast, Susan Aktemel of Impact Arts, which does outstanding work with some of society's most vulnerable people through the inspirational medium of arts and the legendary Karen Lowthrop from Hill Holt Wood helping street kids find their way back to society through forest management and personal mentoring.

Thankfully I was not alone judging the social enterprise category as all the judges had input in each category but we all fell for the winner Livity whose work is beautifully illustrated in this video which had its premiere today at the Conservative Party Conference as it was shown as an introduction to the Prime Minister's speech. Livity bring together young people who want to work in media with some of the world's leading brands like Google and the BBC to produce media campaigns and the award-winning Live magazine.

A worthy winner I am sure you will agree, co-CEOs Sam Conniff and Michelle Clothier gave a stonking acceptance speech that was rewarded with a rousing applause. While they spoke, I was on stage standing with our host, the very lovely Fiona Bruce who whispered to me how she too was inspired by their story. Livity work with society's most vulnerable kids who are a million miles from the kind of academic success achieved by the unemployed young people described at the start of this blog. So if having a first from the London School of Economics doesn't get you a job, what chance have you got with no academic qualifications?  The answer is Livity and more power to them and those like them still able to find ways through enterprise to inspire, engage and employ young people from the UK's poorest communities.

Let's hope the Prime Minister watched the video and was persuaded that supporting social enterprises like Livity are key to building employment in the UK's inner cities, and providing hope to those we sadly refer to these days as the "lost generation".


  1. When I was growing up, my parents told me, 'Finish your dinner. People in China and India are starving.' I tell my daughters, 'Finish your homework. People in India and China are starving for your job.
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  2. Dear Colodo007 thank you for your comments. I too tell my children how hard they will have to study to secure a lifetime of fulfilling work. My hope is by the time they look for work the world will be engaging its youngest citizens in a way that is not happening today. Figures like 46% of the young in Spain currently unemployed is terrifying, as is our own 1 million under 24's, as the Economist told us recently even 12 weeks of unemployment can diminish a persons confidence permanently. We should have a National campaign not to eat less but do more to find confidence and skills enhancing strategies for work seekers particularly those with zero experience. And we should be supporting businesses to be able to employ more people. We need taxpayers, armies of them, to beat the recession.