THE BLOG

We Need to Better Prepare Young People for Life and the World of Work

03/11/2014 17:00 GMT | Updated 03/01/2015 10:59 GMT

As someone who, when younger, was often too shy to join in a private conversation with a small group of people, I would never have believed that I would go on to become the first ever Youth Commissioner of The UK Scout Association or that I would be addressing a room full of MPs as I did last week.

Working hard in school and getting the grades you need is incredibly important. But what I've learnt outside of the classroom, through my time in Scouting, has given me the confidence and life skills to take opportunities that I wouldn't have thought possible otherwise.

Last month, Katja Hall, CBI Deputy Director-General said much the same thing - pointing out that as well as helping young people to do well academically, they must also be supported so that they develop the right attitudes and behaviours, because you need both to succeed in life and work.

I won't pretend, though, that the reason I joined Scouting was because I thought it was going to have a huge impact on what I might be able to achieve as an adult. It looked and sounded fun. Nothing more, nothing less.

But what we call "everyday adventure" - so, spending time away from home, taking part in a huge range of different activities, or making friends from all sorts of backgrounds - provides the character traits that can make the difference when trying to do well in a job, or being brave enough to take on a new challenge.

This idea is not new, but I'm pleased that it's now being talked about properly. It's right that we recognise the role that learning outside of the classroom can have in helping young people to reach their potential.

It can also help us to tackle some of the major social issues that we are facing, such as youth unemployment.

We know that, as well as having good academic qualifications, employers want people who have these "soft skills": commitment, confidence, creativity, teamwork.

Through Scouting, I've been lucky enough to develop these skills, often without even realising it, from negotiating the best method for toasting a marshmallow and running an expedition to Kenya for groups in my area, to writing my application for my Queen's Scout Award.

More young people deserve to get that chance. They should not, though, be seen as a problem to be fixed. As a student, a Scout and someone who spends a lot of time with other young people every week, I know that it's actually about giving every young person the right support and the right opportunities, so they can thrive.

However, some communities and some young people start from a better place than others. At the Scouts, we want to do all that we can to change that.

So we're promising that, as a Movement, we're going to support communities in 200 of the most deprived wards in the country to set up new groups for young people in their area, so that everyone gets the chance to shine. It's a promise to young people across the country and one we intend to keep.

But we can't do it on our own. From sourcing funding and supporting community leaders to finding places for young people to meet, there is so much to organise - we need others to help too.

Over the course of the next four years we want to work with Government, businesses, other community groups and organisations so that every young person, no matter what their background looks like, is better prepared for a brighter future.