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Young Enterprise & Apprenticeships

Despite being only 23 years old, working with younger people has always inspired me.

From the age of 19 I began working with younger people through sporting activities and continued to do so until last year.

Being able to assist with the development of their skills and distinguish their key abilities is a joy in itself. They are our future.

Postcode Anywhere and my old school, The Chase School (Malvern), gave me the opportunity of working with students through an initiative called Young Enterprise. I didn’t hesitate in accepting the challenge and within a matter of weeks I was working with the students in the classroom, assisting with their business objectives and strategies. The age of the participating students is between 16 and 17, and they are currently studying for their AS levels. I must admit, I was expecting to be working with a group of ‘typical’ teenagers, grunting at best and possessing no real enthusiasm about the tasks ahead of them.

I was wrong.

On my first session with them I was greeted with a classroom of around 15 students all buzzing with ideas and excitement. It felt like a breath of fresh air to be working with young minds vibrant with ideas and creativity. But why are they like that? Well, partly because it is a voluntary scheme and they want to be there by choice. But, ultimately no one is above them, telling them they must adhere to this or that – and their lack of experience in the business world actually enables them to be so much more creative and innovative.

Ignorance is not only bliss, but also important in this environment in order to produce innovation and originality. And this is exactly why I feel so strongly about apprenticeships. There is a perception that teenagers straight out of school are ‘useless’ and need to go to university to prove themselves (then they might be relatively employable). The opposite is true. If I had my own company, I’d take on any one of the students I’m working with in an instance. Within six months you can train them to your standards and they will have no old/bad habits to get out of, which is something more experienced employees may have from previous jobs. They will also be a breath of fresh air to an environment that may contain employees who have been there for some time and perhaps lacking energy and enthusiasm.

I don’t like using the term ‘children’ when talking about this age group as they are far from it. You can classify them as young adults, but that could be anything from 16-21 years old’ and the term ‘youth’ has been firmly attached to those who were actively involved in the riots. I can’t help but think that all-too often teenagers are tarred with the same brush. You know which brush I mean: the one that’s dripping with stories of hoodies, knives, drugs, pregnancy, and layabouts channel-hopping between Jeremy Kyle, Car Booty and Cash in the Attic.

I think we all forget how capable we were at 16…

…and how the world seemed so simple back then. It is this mind-set that allows teenagers to imagine the most incredible things and as a result come up with, often, the best ideas. When I was 18 I wanted to take a year out to work in the “real world” (and to put off university for a year). A large manufacturing company took me on for eight months and paid me minimum wage.

To them, I was a burden and the sooner I was out of the office the better… until after around six weeks. Being young and enthusiastic I was getting work done quicker than they expected and soon learnt how to use the design software they used. When it came to leaving after eight months they seemed almost irritated and surprised that I was deciding to leave. They offered me a full-time job and said there would always be one for me if ever I decided to return. They weren’t a company who regularly, if ever, took on such young employees in the office and I’d like to think I changed the opinion of some people there regarding young people.

So I say to any potential employers, don’t forget these younger people. They may well be what your company needs right now.