Changing lives through education and training is something that resonates with me personally and is a purpose that naturally runs throughout The Progress Group.
The world pressed pause for a while and we took the time to reflect, regroup and restructure. As a business, it’s given us the opportunity to focus on our shared values across our three distinct divisions, as we start a new chapter with our new brand and ambitions.
Having a clear purpose as an organisation is of course important – but at a time when many people are looking for new direction, reassurance and support, the significance of helping to nurture an individual’s sense of purpose is crucial too.
With rapidly rising unemployment, a skills gap threatening to widen and ‘new normal’ ways of living and working to navigate, our sector needs to be there to help people develop the skills and confidence to succeed and thrive.
Today is the UN’s World Youth Skills Day, which makes it more poignant that under 25s are being hit particularly hard in the current jobs market. The government’s latest employment statistics shows the 16 to 24 age group were the only age group to show an annual decrease in employment – down by 25,000.
It’s a similar story when we look at those not in education, employment or training (NEETS), with official figures for early 2020 showing an increase to 771,000 young people across the UK.
This is before we see the full impact of Covid-19 on the jobs market as a whole, but what’s already clear is the need to keep levelling the skills playing field in our society.
The government’s announcement last week to support young people, particularly those on universal credit, is a step in the right direction.
A personal journey
I remember the moment aged 12 when I started on my own journey to finding my personal purpose and the self-belief I needed to achieve it. Growing up on a council estate in Birmingham – on the 17th floor of a tower block for the first seven years – I desperately wanted to achieve my dream of working in the media, but my teachers at the time dismissed the idea.
It wasn’t until a local arts worker called Harry took the time teach me to how to take photographs that I really started to value myself. Learning this new skill taught me how to think about the world around me, how people are shaped and the breadth of choice and opportunity out there. It gave me the confidence to go to college and polytechnic, and secure an internship at the BBC. Although I moved away from a media career, it gave me skills, as well as a passion for education and training, which has set me on the path to the role I’m in today.
I was lucky to have had support developing my direction and resolve at a young age. Every young person deserves this, so we need to be there for those who don’t – to help people build resilience and strength and provide empathy and understanding to nurture purpose at an individual level.
Everyone has their own personal story, whether that’s a child who’s falling behind at school, someone who has lost their job, struggling to get into work or coming out of the justice system. Sometimes they need that extra helping hand of support.
Our teams have been busy keeping education and training services running throughout the pandemic, critically supporting both youth and adult learning. For many the future can often feel uncertain, even more so now than ever before.
But this challenging time brings with it the opportunity to do things differently and harness the changes and opportunities to support the next generation to find their own successful path for the future.
This is something me and the fantastic Progress Group team are committed to delivering on a daily basis – using the power of education and training to change lives.