The current pandemic, punctuated by lockdowns and unprecedented restrictions on movement has been tough on all of us, but none more so than on young people. Teenagers were effectively grounded for three months for doing nothing wrong.
But more worrying still is the effect the coronavirus crisis has had on the self-confidence of the young. As we all try to adjust to a ‘new normal’, young people are having to do the same, despite the adjustment to adulthood being difficult enough.
That’s why I’m so delighted that Future First has been chosen as the charity for The MJ Achievement Awards this year. Never has there been a more opportune moment for this wonderful charity’s work to be celebrated and promoted.
Its work to develop alumni programmes and introduce employers into schools is so important at a time when many students will be struggling to believe they can succeed in a world of such uncertainty.
Future First already works with hundreds of state schools and colleges to link young people with alumni and employers, but there are many more schools that do not benefit from the opportunity.
These networks have made a huge difference for the 7% of pupils attending private schools over the years, but if we are ever going to close the gap between the very privileged and the other 93% of children attending state schools they need to exist in every school.
Alumni show children a world of opportunity and a future that could be theirs and Future First aims to give them hope for the future and the confidence and motivation they need to succeed.
More specifically, there are two reasons why local government in particular should support the charity’s current crowdfunding effort to create even more opportunities for alumni networks to develop in state schools.
Firstly, with the rebuilding of local economies so central to the future work of councils, it is vital students in local schools are motivated to succeed and make a difference not just for themselves but also for their communities.
While many young people move away from their home areas there are plenty who stay local and councils need them to be inspired to breathe new life into the economy and community on their doorstep. With an ageing UK workforce, especially in senior positions, local government can only benefit by encouraging more young people to launch careers in the sector.
Secondly, though local government knows it is at the forefront of driving change and transforming services – the stories of radical thinking, innovative solutions and futuristic vision appear every week in the pages of The MJ – the outside world is more oblivious to this challenging, creative environment.
Local government can position itself more effectively as an inspirational career path for the students of today. Pupils in every school should be inspired to pursue careers in a sector grappling with complex but fascinating challenges and finding innovative solutions that will be felt for decades to come.
Every young person should be made aware that a career in local government could mean the opportunity to reimagine the very fabric of our city centres or the chance to help revolutionise our transport systems in ways never thought possible.
And while the coronavirus crisis has created a whole world of new challenges and opportunities for local government, the sector continues to innovate and adapt to the historic issues that predate the arrival of COVID-19, such as adult social care and support for special educational need.
Indeed, local government is full of inspirational officers who have gone the extra mile for their communities, created life-changing solutions for local people and driven renewal in places no one thought possible.
These are stories and experiences that the students of today need to hear from people just like you. They need to be inspired to strive for success by meeting local government officers they can relate to. People who have made a lasting difference to communities. And they need to be motivated to consider a career in local government by being shown the fulfilment it can bring.
Future First is the perfect fit for The MJ Awards. At a time when the sector needs greater diversity, resilience and fresh thinking to strive for further success, it is a charity that is working tirelessly to do the same thing for the next generation. Together local government and Future First can make a lasting difference to young people and their communities across the country so please support their crowdfunding effort and sign up with them as an alumni to give back to the students of today.
Nancy Scott is a local government partner at GatenbySanderson
Future First’s crowdfunder can be found at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/future-first-crowdfunder