The Game-changing App Developing Student Employability

Although you may be enjoying the bliss of the summer holidays now, in a few weeks it will be time to prepare for the start or return to university. The thought may fill some with glee and others with horror, especially when thinking about the prospect of money. Costs of living continue to rise, but the work load won’t let up and the last thing you want to do is fail.

This is where a new, innovative app like Toptask is a game-changer. Toptask connects university students to individuals and businesses, allowing them to find jobs around them without having to commit to part-time work.

Students are able to earn some money to keep their head above water, but in this case they are able to fit paid work around their study timetables. Jobs available to students on Toptask are also likely to pay more than your typical part-time job, as they earn a minimum of £10 an hour.

Many graduates will also recall the difficulty of finding a full-time job after leaving university without the necessary experience. Toptask provides students with the opportunity to “gain valuable work experience and develop skills that will help them kick-start their professional careers”, making it a brilliant resource that I wish I had access to when I was at studying at university.

George Holdaway is studying Physics MSci at University College London and has been using Toptask since August 2016. He says that “the tasks are challenging but rewarding, they provide one with an opportunity to stretch one’s own capabilities. It’s not like other student jobs, we are doing real things for real companies.”

Nevertheless, there is a major drawback in that the app is solely based in London, making its services less accessible for students outside of the city. However, Toptask’s marketing manager, Tatiana Middleton, hopes that the company will spread.

Founder Gregory Newman, who developed Toptask as a solution to a problem he had while on holiday, makes sure that Toptask practices what it preaches. Although it is managed by a senior team, the day-to-day running of the platform is carried out by a team of skilled students and recent graduates. This also includes generating all marketing materials, media and website content. The individuals running the platform also use the app themselves, bringing even more students in.

As well as bringing students in through using the app, Toptask “provides support to young achievers still at school through its scholarship programme.” A percentage of the fees paid are put into a programme that gives young people from all backgrounds the chance to attend university, meaning that employers are not only getting quality work done for a reasonable cost, but also positively contributing to the futures of young people.

Anna Smithson has used Toptask as an employer. She works for the company Airsorted, which ended up taking on two students they met through the app as summer interns. When describing her experience using Toptask, Anna says, “We’ve had some excellent temps who we’ve had either on a recurring basis or have hired as contractors for the summer. They’ve helped us assess the resource needed in a new area of the business and supported the current need while we develop new projects.”

Since its launch at the end of 2016, the app has signed up thousands of employers and students across London, showing that there is definitely a want and need for this type of service. Toptask is also working in partnership with several major London universities, which is likely to build its client base and further improve the services it offers.

University of Essex student, Bekhruz Khazratov, said: “Toptask provides a great opportunity for students to study and work at the same time. It is also very helpful for students to practice their skills while studying.”

As I mentioned towards the beginning, I believe that this app is a game-changer for students and the opportunities will be even greater if they are able to expand outside London. By using Toptask, students are more financially sound, while being able to focus on their studies and gain the experience they will need after graduating. What more could you want?

Reflecting on The Complete Freedom of Truth Croydon

On August 20th, I finally achieved my goal of bringing The Complete Freedom of Truth (TCFT) to my home town of Croydon.  This is a project that I love and means more to me than I can describe – you properly have to see my eyes brighten and face light up when I speak about it and all that it’s done for me.

Getting the TCFT Croydon pilot to happen was hard work, despite running only for one day, mainly because I began planning for it in June.  I was ready to give up twice, but fortunately I persevered and was able to watch a beautiful day take place.

A group of us gathered on a Sunday to bring something new to Croydon, develop relationships and explore our truths through art. We broke the ice and got our minds ready with a morning warm up led by Daisy.  We were joined by the Mayor of Croydon, Councillor Toni Letts, and her consort, who got involved too, followed by the Mayor saying a few words.

Morning Warm Up by Robert Golden.

The main part of the day was the workshops, which I’m pleased to say were a success.  Music and photography rang out through Matthews Yard and beyond, poetry and theatre brought life to Project B, while art flowed through Turf Projects.  As I floated between each venue, I observed how enthused and engaged everyone was in their workshops, which calmed me down and made me smile.

Art Workshop by Robert Golden.

We also had a mini discussion, led by the brilliantly dynamic and inspiring Geraldine Sharpe-Newton, who empowered those in attendance and provided us with plenty of food for thought.  I hope that the young participants left the day with encouragement to become change-makers and not remain stagnant in society.

Discussion by Robert Golden.

One of my favourite parts of the pilot was watching the work created throughout the day come together in the final sharing of work at Braithwaite Hall.  Considering the short space of time each group had to create their pieces, I was extremely impressed with the quality and overwhelmed by what had been produced.  There was true talent in the room and I would love to have seen what they could have created in an extended length of time.

Considering my worries and anticipation, the day went really well and better than I could have imagined, although there is plenty of room for improvement.  I know I need to have some better time keeping, have a list of tasks to assign to volunteers and properly layout how the final sharing of work will run.  I also need to promote more and go into other organisations, telling them about TCFT.

Most of all, I need more time to plan and put everything together, which should be a lot easier next time, considering everything I’ve learnt and the various skills I’ve gained.  Going forward, I know that I’ll need some training for certain aspects and a bigger team of people to work with, who will definitely be able to commit their time to carrying out tasks.

Theatre Workshop by Robert Golden.

The main point of the TCFT Croydon pilot was to see if it would work and if there was a want for TCFT in Croydon.  Looking back on the day, I saw that it does work and there is definitely a want for it in Croydon, but more people need to know about TCFT and understand what the project is.  I can see that it has the ability to grow, host more regular projects in Croydon and contribute towards a more united, democratic society.

The Mayor of Croydon’s Hands by Rachel Dunford.

 

To finish, I want to say a big thank you to my co-facilitator Naomi, who created all of the gorgeous graphics and marketing imagery for the day, and also facilitated the photography workshop.  A big thank you as well goes out to the truly amazing workshop facilitators for the day, who got the best out of our participants: Nikki, Liberty, Chimaine, Daisy, Humi and Cedoux.  The day could not have happened without you.

Big thanks goes out Robert and Skye for taking photos and capturing the day, ensuring that it would not be forgotten.  Big thanks also to my dad for preparing the food, my sister for registering everyone and holding down the information desk, and my mum for all of the help she gave throughout the day.

Thank you so much to Opera Circus for partnering with us on this project, helping with many of the legal aspects, and to Tina from Opera Circus for supporting me throughout the whole process.  I don’t think I could have done this without you mentoring me.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of the volunteers who gave up their time on a Sunday to support, all of the participants who got so brilliantly involved in the day and also everyone else who helped me along the way in the organisation process.

Last but not least, a huge thank you to Matthews Yard and Turf Projects for supporting us by providing your beautiful spaces without asking me to pay a penny, and thank you to Project B for the use of your venue yet again.  And finally, a huge thank you to Croydon Council for your supporting and sponsoring us through the use of Braithwate Hall, and to FAB Croydon for sponsoring us through donation.  You were all a part of this day.

Poetry Workshop by Robert Golden.

Continued Support at Poetic Insight

Every Poetic Insight is different, which is what makes every one of them special in their own way.  One thing that never changes though is the amazing young talent and constant support in the room.

The support is what enables first time performers to take to the stage and do a great job.  On July 25th, we welcomed Jadi-Ann to the stage for the first time, who did a great job of summing up the battle of procrastination and turning words into action.  We hope that she’ll come back and share at Poetic Insight again in the future.

We also had some of our regular performers back, which is always great.  Authentic Alanie shared a spoken word poem inspired by the Indigo Children, Rainbow Children and Crystal Children, while Jamal performed a powerful spoken word piece on genocide and hate.

Rhianna took to the stage after a couple of months away, sharing a poem about love gone cold.  And Annotate put a huge smile on our face, performing one of our favourite poems about young people struggling to have a chance.

I also shared a spoken word poem that was very important to my heart, where I wiped away my mask and expressed some of my more innermost feelings.  It feels good to let my guard down every once in a while.

You’ll have to wait until October 31st for the next Poetic Insight, and since its Black History Month the theme will be Black-ish.  However, you can get social with us on Sunday from 5-8pm in Project B and we’ll be bringing The Complete Freedom of Truth to Croydon on August 20th – stay tuned for more news on that.

Just make sure you save the date of October 31st and if you’re a young poet or spoken word artist wanting to perform, email me at shaniquab29@yahoo.co.uk or message me at 07910092565.

Stay updated with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter, following @youngpeopleinsight on Instagram, liking Young People Insight on Facebook and subscribing to the Young People Insight YouTube channel.

Highs & Lows at Poetic Insight

On June 27th, Poetic Insight was all about the theme of Life.  I wanted it to be an opportunity for the community to come together and celebrate life after all of the sadness and craziness that has been plaguing our country recently.  However, life has a way of throwing you curve balls and not going the way you’d like it to.

I like to be honest and I think it’s good to be open when it comes to YPI, which means telling you about some of the slightly lower points, as well as the highs.

Last month’s Poetic Insight was one of those slightly lower points in some respects, as the community did not come out to support as I would have liked, and it was the smallest audience and number of performers so far.  This was also a night I dedicated to my Uncle, who suddenly passed away in May and was always full of life, so I wanted this night to be special for him.

However, there was a great positive in the smaller audience, as it gave a young person the courage to get up and perform, which she would not have done in front of a larger audience.  It was great to watch JayJay gather confidence as the night went on, asking to perform again and deliver a performance with greater conviction than before.

Young people like JayJay are the reason I started YPI in the first place, so being able to give her that opportunity was amazing and made me feel proud on the night.  So all in all, the night was a success, even if the numbers had dwindled on a rainy evening.

It was also brilliant to listen to Alana’s story so far, telling us what it has been like living with autism – she shared some great poetry as well.  Annotate was fire as usual, dropping two spoken word poems that forced us to think about the lives of all individuals, whether they are here in the UK or in the Middle East, as well as the importance of being real.

I also shared the journey I took that led to me starting YPI and why it is so important for me to use the platform to make a change.  And at the end of the night, I emphasised the importance of making our voices heard and making a difference in our society, in spite of our age, because young people are just as important as anyone else.

So in spite of some initial disappointment, last month’s Poetic Insight turned out to be a lovely night and a great success.  After all, it’s about quality, not quantity.

The next Poetic Insight will be on July 25th, but there will be no theme this time, giving young poets and spoken word artists to speak out on whatever they choose.  If you want to perform, email me at shaniquab29@yahoo.co.uk or message me at 07910092565.

Stay updated with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter, following @youngpeopleinsight on Instagram, liking Young People Insight on Facebook and subscribing to the Young People Insight YouTube channel.

Let’s Talk About Life Goals

Life Goals was the theme of our forum on June 20th, with the aim of inspiring young people and getting them thinking about the direction they want to take in life.

We started by revealing some of the goals we had, which included travelling the word, starting a business, keeping a job, embarking on a PhD, owning a house and starting a mental health charity for ethnic individuals.

Then it was time to hear from our first guest speaker, Daniel from Talk 2 Dan, which is an initiative that helps young people believe in themselves and develop the key skills they need to get into media.  He started Talk 2 Dan in January 2017, after being made redundant by Sky in December 2016 – “Everyone has a talent,” he says.

Daniel started out studying Personal Training at college, but then moved on to studying film and media – he won an award for a short film, which he says was “a big achievement for me.”  He then went on to study Broadcast Journalism at university, where his documentary, ‘Is Fast Food Killing Britain’s Youth?’ was singled out by an external examiner and he was asked to speak to the news.

He also had to deal with his mum dying, which “made me stronger.  More of a man.”  Daniel told us that “The best way for me to come to terms with this is speaking to people.”  Despite struggling with public speaking, Daniel overcame it by speaking to young people in schools.

As well as sharing his journey with us, Daniel laid out some steps for us to apply to our lives.  They included:

  • Not talking ourselves out of things
  • Having a positive mindset and visualising our future
  • Overcoming rejection
  • Digging deep
  • Remembering why you started.

Daniel believes that if you dream it, you can do it, and he told us that doing a lot of versatile things has helped him to figure out what he wants to do, which is make documentaries.  However, his main aim is to get young people to believe in themselves.

Our second set of guest speakers were Tatiana and Diego, the marketing manager and platform manager of Toptask.  Toptask is an app that links students to jobs around them, which was launched by a company called Student UK Ltd and I believe is a game-changer.

Not every student will want to commit to part-time work, so Toptask allows them to earn money when they have the time and also build their skills, providing them with experience that will benefit them when applying for jobs in the future.  “What really connected with me was originally looking for a job and remembering how hard it was to get a job without the initial experience,” said Diego.

Toptask is for young people and run by young people – all those hired to run the company are university students and recent graduates.  “We use the app ourselves and bring students in,” says Tatiana.

The app is exclusively for university students and those in further education college, as students applying for the jobs have to be over 18.  Tatiana also hopes that the company will be able to spread, as they are currently based in London.

There also seems to be a great personal element involved in Toptask, with Tatiana mentioning that she hears a number of incredible stories from the students she gets to know through the app.  Diego also told us, “I got to know an amazing group of young people from this job.”

We also had some more impromptu speakers on the day.  First, we heard from Don, who tried to become an MP in this month’s General Election.  Describing himself as being “political for quite a long time” and a former member of the Liberal Democrats – before becoming “quite disillusioned” after the 2010 General Election when the Tories came into power – Don was an estate agent for a year and a half.

He started in mid 2015 and saw how the house prices rose, and how difficult it was for young people to get on the property ladder, which he really didn’t like.  “Things are getting worse.  Property prices are getting higher… Things are getting harder and harder for people,” Don said.  He also touched on the generational divide and the fact that people are spending 50% on their rent.

“The problem I had in Croydon Central, which is the constituency I ran in, is that we didn’t have much chose… I think that’s unfair and that’s not what democracy is about,” Don explained to us about his reason to run in the election.  He wanted to do something now, rather than wait another five years – “If I can advocate for people… [and]… use the platform that I have, I consider it an obligation.”

Finally, we heard from Jamal, who recently got selected to take part in a 12-week performing arts programme called Amy’s Yard, which was set up by Amy Winehouse’s parents.  Jamal takes part in masterclasses, meets professionals in the industry and at end of the 12 weeks, those on the programme will be putting on a showcase in front of industry professionals.

Jamal is also planning to release a book, which is a compilation of short stories and poetry, which he started when he was in prison.  The book is based on everything he’s been through and everything he’s seen, but he first had to overcome his fear of sharing hat he’s been through.

As someone who tries to make a difference when he can, one of Jamal’s final points was, “I believe that if everyone actively gets involved in their community, we can make a big change.”

The ‘Influence of Music’ will be the topic of our forum on July 18th, so come ready for an interesting conversation.  I think this is going to be a lively one.

Stay updated with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter, following @youngpeopleinsight on Instagram, liking Young People Insight on Facebook and subscribing to the Young People Insight YouTube channel.

Raw Expression Shown at Poetic Insight

As you’ve probably seen us mention before, it was Mental Health Awareness Week earlier in the month of May, but at YPI we carried it all the way through to the end of the month, culminating with a mental health themed Poetic Insight on May 30th.

I had a feeling that it was going to be a special night, but I had no idea just how beautiful it would be.  The poets performed with a stellar rawness and each of them brought something different, sharing a little of themselves with all of us.

You could feel the emotion in the room, as everyone sat engaged with each poem, seemingly unsure of whether they should click or make sounds in agreement with what was being said.  There was a level of respect shown that was so amazing, I wish it could have been shared with an even wider audience.

Laurence was our first act of the night, telling the relevant and well-known story of Sarah Reed through spoken word.  On the other end of the scale, Rozita was our final act, sharing her experience about relationships and depression through spoken word and song.

Rhianna was brave enough to share a poem about her own personal journey with mental health, just as Tania bravely shared a poem about her experience with depression and the conflict it caused with a family member due to their faith.

Miss Yankey shared a piece of spoken word about what her friend went through, due to drug induced schizophrenia and psychosis.  Then there was Fahad, who delivered a powerful spoken word poem about bullying.

As if the night was not special or poignant enough, Angela, a member of the audience, asked to take the stage to share a few words about her experience dealing with mental health issues.  Tears flowed and you could hear a pin drop, as everyone in the room sat taking in her every word.  Young people like Angela being courageous enough to share their stories was why I started this platform in the first place, so I was so glad that she felt comfortable enough to share that with us.

 

All that’s left now is to say thank you to all of my wonderful performers – Laurence, Miss Yankey, Rhianna, Gus, Annotate, Sid, Fahad, Nazarene, Pekz, Authentic Alanie, Tania and Rozita – and of course, the wonderful Angela, for coming on to the Poetic Insight stage.  You make these nights amazing and you make me proud to be a young person.

The next Poetic Insight will be on June 27th and the theme will be Life, following on from our forum’s theme of Life Goals.  If you want to perform, email me at shaniquab29@yahoo.co.uk or message me at 07910092565.

Stay updated with Young People Insight by following @YPInsight on Twitter, following @youngpeopleinsight on Instagram, liking Young People Insight on Facebook and subscribing to the Young People Insight YouTube channel.

Bringing The Complete Freedom of Truth to Croydon

Last month, I took part in the European youth project, The Complete Freedom of Truth (TCFT) for the third time.  This year we were in the town of Sarteano, Italy, where we took part in the usual assortment of workshops, discussions and showcases.

A project centred on inclusiveness, tolerance and equality, TFCT is the perfect example of what Europe and the extended world could be if we were more accepting of each other and worked together, rather than fight against each other.

Most of all, it shows the importance of art – how it can bring people together and begin to create change.  This has been a great inspiration to me and an element that I’ve taken forward in developing Young People Insight – in fact, YP Insight probably would not be what it is now without TCFT.

This year I brought a bit of YP Insight to Sarteano by holding a poetry night as part of TCFT.  As always, it was filled with varying talent and amazing poetry on a variety of different themes.  However, unlike Poetic Insight, all of the performers were not young people, but TCFT is all about transcending age.

Poems were presented in different languages, which brought different levels and beautiful cultural diversity to the night.  Francesco’s poems were read in Italian, and also translated into English and Romanian.  Maya and Sandra performed poems in Bosnian, while Saša delivered a poem in Serbian.

Image by Irina Ganescu.

There were themes about love, self, fitting in and dance.  Some poems were more personal than others, giving us a deeper insight into the individual which is always beautiful.  Hopefully there will be some footage up online soon so you will be able to experience what was an amazing night.

Thank you to Francesco, Sandra, Julia, Sylvia, Luka, Ellie, Izzy, Maya, Molly, Ricky, Liviu, Raul and Saša – the night would not have been what it was without you.  I also want to thank everyone else who was behind the scenes and helped me to get the night organised I could not have pulled this off on my own in a country that was foreign to me.

TCFT is a truly special experience, which words cannot do enough justice for.  You cannot fully comprehend it unless you live it yourself, which is why I intend to bring more of TCFT to Croydon over time.  I’ve seen the change and effect it has had on the lives of the young people involved, including myself.  I can genuinely say that it has changed my life and I would not be the leader that I am now without it.

Just watch this space.