Discussing Employment at the Young People Insight Forum

“I hear working, just working… Employment means work,” said Darnell, during this month’s Young People Insight forum.

Employment was the discussion point for February, following the feedback received at the first forum last month.  It was about us delving deeper into the barriers young people face when seeking employment and thinking about the possible ways we could relieve those pressures.

Photo by @ChineloChizea and used with permission.
Photo by @ChineloChizea and used with permission.

When sharing our initial thoughts on the term employment, responses varied from income to working for yourself.  Yet what sparked my attention was how the direction of the conversation soon turned to feelings about money itself and how a lack of it could lead to feelings of depression – “I think it’s life in general,” said Andrae.

This led to a great point being made by Alana, who said: “If you’re going to work and do a job, make sure it’s a job you enjoy doing.”  It is a simple statement that we too often forget in our society, because we’ve only got money on our mind, but we need to remember that life isn’t all about the money.

On the flip side, it can prove difficult for young people to land a job they actually enjoy doing, even after graduating from university.  Despite having a degree in film studies, Nahed couldn’t find a job because she didn’t have the experience, which is a common issue at the centre of finding employment.  However, Ope says, “I think a lot of us, we expect when we come out [of university] to be given a job… because that’s what we’re told.”

This brought us on to the issues of being “underqualified” or “overqualified” for a job, with some seeing “overqualified” as an excuse for employers not to hire you.  We also questioned whether employment was about “the right contacts” or simply getting a job organically, and an interesting point was made by Rhianna who says that “it’s just chance”, as sometimes you’ll apply for a job and be rejected, but later get the job after applying again.

One of my favourite parts of the forum was when we discussed the reluctance of some employers to give individuals a chance when applying for job roles.  I found myself reconsidering some of my thought processes and focusing on factors that had never crossed my mind before.


Rhianna thinks some employers are intimidated, while Darnell said that it might be about the applicant not yet reaching the level of maturity.  Ope also raised the subject of job culture, saying that employers might not think you’ll fit in with the company culture.  Systemic oppression was also a big discussion point, as we spoke about job rejections based on name and race.  But one of my favourite points was again raised by Alana, who said: “Employers want to see what people have a life and whose life they can take from them.”

What became clear was that we all agreed that we didn’t leave education with enough skills to enter the workplace.  Andrae said: “School wasn’t there for what I wanted school to be there for.”  However, Ope says, “I don’t think school is for that.  I don’t think schools can do everything”, but she later added that “schools know that somebody else will do it [develop employability skills]”.

I personally think that schools should be doing more, but it doesn’t mean that the responsibility should fall solely on the teachers.  Alana thinks that there needs to be more attached to schools and I agree, because that is what will help young people truly thrive in the long-term.

Tuesday’s discussion was lively and insightful, and I’m hoping that we can build on it for the future, but an important element of YP Insight is to give words of encouragement and advice:

“Don’t take it personal when you get declined for a job.  Ask for feedback… Keep going.  You’re just getting started.” – Ope, 24

” Self-learn all the time.” – Alana, 21

“Keep on being persistent.  Keep going, keep going.” – Nahed, 23

“Sell yourself and stay true to who you are.” – Rhianna, 20

YPInsight March Forum

The next forum will be on the 15th March at Project B, for anyone who is aged 16-25.  We’ll be discussing careers, asking if a career is different to employment and whether we are doing what we can to reach our career goals.

Follow @YPInsight on Twitter to stay up to date with any updates or information.


‘I Have A Voice’: Tackling Youth Homelessness

Last year, I was fortunate enough to develop a project with  the youth charity Fixers, resulting in the creation of my short film, ‘What Would You Say’.  Although my Fixers project came to an end, hundreds of young people are continuing to “fix” an issue in their community and I was able to meet up with one of them.

Jahtoya Rodriquez, 25, is developing a fix to tackle youth homelessness, by holding an event entitled ‘I Have A Voice’.  Brought up in the British Virgin Islands, Jahtoya would always say hello to her late uncle,’Jojo’, who had lived on the streets for as long as she’d known him.  It is her late uncle who is the main inspiration for the ‘I Have a Voice’ event.  Although he had an apartment, he preferred sleeping on the streets, like many other homeless people Jahtoya later met while volunteering with the Dream Center in Los Angeles.

Jahtoya also has personal experience with homelessness, as she found herself sofa surfing for a few months while she was living in New York, “as it was quite difficult to find apartments”.  She says, “I even shared a room with a couple which I am thankful for.”  Not having anywhere to live until a week or two after she had moved to London in 2014 resulted in Jahtoya sofa surfing for another period of time.

Image used with permission.
Image used with permission.

‘I Have a Voice’ was established to give youth between the ages of 16-25 who have experienced homelessness, know someone who has experienced homelessness or simply see homeless people on the street each day, an opportunity to share their story in a creative way.  This may be through storytelling, singing, acting, reciting a poem, playing an instrument or even beat boxing.

Performers for the event include Alyssa Harrigan, a singer and songwriter from the British Virgin Islands, actress Anita Okonkwo, blogger Kay Riley, and Ke’Andrea Nicole, a TV and red carpet interview host.  The MP of Lewisham, Vicky Foxcroft, will also be the guest speaker and she’ll be discussing the plans she has to help youth in the Lewisham borough.

As well as performances and presentations, there will be food, music and blessing bags for the first 100 attendees.  It is a free event for the general public to come together to listen to the youth and find ways in which they can make a difference in their local communities.

Jahtoya is currently studying part-time for an MA in Charity Management at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham and it was one of her classmates who invited her to attend a meeting with Fixers, who have partnered with L & Q Housing Trust to help young people within the local area use their experience to help others.  She said: “After attending the meeting and sharing my passion for helping homeless people, I decided to create a platform for my future charity which will help empower homeless youth through self-development workshops, education and job training.”

Image used with permission.
Image used with permission.

After completing this project, Jahtoya says that she will continue doing outreach projects with people that share a similar interest and share different activities on her YouTube channel, ‘Jahtoya Rodriquez’, which will be launching shortly.  However, Jahtoya’s long-term goal is to start her charity for youth between the age of 16-25, providing the opportunities she mentioned above in the British Virgin Islands and international cities like London, New York, Los Angeles etc.

Jahtoya says: “Many times people look at your success, but do not know what [you] went through to be the person you are today, which is why I want to allow youths who have shared similar experiences both directly and indirectly to share their stories, to help encourage and inspire others who are experiencing the same things.”

‘I Have A Voice’ will be taking place on the 16th April from 3-6pm at The Lewington Centre, 9 Eugenia Road, Rotherhithe, London, SE16 2RU.  You can register for the event at: http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/i-have-a-voice-an-event-tackling-youth-homelessness-tickets-20931069392 but be quick, as spaces are limited.  There are also three performance slots available, so if you’re interested please contact EyH.London@gmail.com.

I Have a Voice Flyer

Stay updated with the Empowering Youth Homelessness campaign by following @EyhLondon on Twitter or liking Empowering Youth Homelessness on Facebook.



Young People Insight February Forum Info

We’re fully into the month of February, after flying through January, which means that the next Young People Insight forum is coming up.

Photo by @ChineloChizea and used with permission.
Photo by @ChineloChizea and used with permission.

Following on from the responses and feedback I received last month, the February forum will focus on the subject of employment.  Employment is something that many young people feel strongly about for a variety of reasons.

There is the struggle of finding work after graduating, often resulting in graduates taking jobs that have nothing to do with the field they studied for, or in some cases, do not even require a degree.  Sometimes there is the barrier of being under qualified, or more strangely, “over qualified”.  And there is that constant nagging question of whether employers will even give them the chance, as well as that frustrating thing called “experience”.

Although the reported number of unemployed young people (aged 16-24) has decreased, this does not tell the full story and it does not address the countless other problems that young people face in regards to employment.  Even if more young people are employed, how many of them are actually being paid a substantial wage?  How many of them will be able to afford to buy a house in the near future?

Numerous questions could be raised surrounding youth employment and I’m sure that there would be countless responses from a variety of young people.  So if you’re 16-25, join the discussion on Tuesday 16th February.  We’ll be meeting in Project B (1 Bell Hill, Croydon CR0 1FB) from 6.30-8.30pm.  Come ready to speak your mind, meet new people and munch on some food.  Hope to see you there.

YP Insight Forum 2

Stay updated with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter.