THE BLOG

Unlocking the Potential of Britain's Young People

12/03/2014 08:39 GMT | Updated 11/05/2014 10:59 BST

Are they sitting at home watching TV or wandering the streets? Too depressed to get out of bed or busy with volunteer work? Courageous or apathetic? Are you one of them?

Everyone has a different perception of unemployed young people. With close to a million young people struggling to find work, it can be difficult to imagine the individual stories hidden behind the statistics.

In fact, I suspect this is a challenge for all charities. How can we encourage people to see the recipients of our work - be they the elderly, the sick, or the unemployed - not as statistics or a faceless mass but as living, breathing, struggling individuals who depend upon and deserve our support?

Perhaps it would help if I stopped and told you about Karine. Aged just 18, she spent three years living on the street and in hostels. While others her age were heading off to university or getting their teeth into a career, Karine was unemployed and sleeping outside. At that time, she felt so invisible and alone that she likened herself to a pigeon. That a young girl saw herself as a bird often considered a pest is quite frankly, heartbreaking.

Some people looked at Karine and barely saw her and some people saw her but wrote her off. The sad thing is that Karine was finding it hard not to do the same. She had started to convince herself that she would still be on the streets aged 40, using drugs and possibly even selling her body.

Fast forward five years and Karine is now a happy, confident 23-year-old who helps manage construction teams for a living and is currently working on a £75million building project in central London.

So, what changed? Well, Karine was given supported housing, which led to her approaching The Prince's Trust. Here she was treated as an individual, given a chance and then provided with the ongoing, tailored support she so desperately needed to get to where she wanted to be. The springboard for Karine was our Team programme, a 12-week course that gives unemployed young people the skills and confidence to move into work. Karine found it tough at first - she was uncomfortable working alongside other people - but she persevered and so did The Trust.

Like Karine, the majority of the young people The Trust works with are unemployed and unsure of what to do next. Many of them are also grappling with hugely chaotic personal circumstances, which can include homelessness, abuse or addiction. They are all, however, individuals.

The key to starting to unlock a young person's potential really can be as simple as treating them as such - not succumbing to stereotypes and really listening to them. It may sound obvious but it is a large part of the reason why three in four young people supported by The Trust move into work, education or training.

It is also one of the reasons why I look forward to The Prince's Trust and Samsung's annual Celebrate Success awards so much every year. The ceremony is a time for celebration - a time for us to focus on the achievements of the hugely inspirational young individuals that The Trust has the privilege to work with.

Their achievements are a pertinent reminder of why it is so important to treat every unemployed or disadvantaged young person as an individual - to offer them tailored support, to encourage them when they are down, to praise them when they have made progress and to recognise that everybody deserves the chance to succeed.

The Prince's Trust & Samsung Celebrate Success Awards are taking place this afternoon and I am delighted that Karine is one of the finalists up for this year's HP Flying Start award.

It will be the 10th time we roll out the red carpet for our amazing young people, and, in the process of doing so, we will hopefully remind more than a few people that our younger generation can achieve remarkable things when given a chance.

The Prince's Trust works with over 55,000 disadvantaged young people every year and they tell us time and again that they want to work and they want to contribute to the communities in which they live. Unemployed young people are not statistics and they are not lost causes. They are not all sitting at home watching TV or wandering the streets. They are not all too depressed to get out of bed and they are not all busy with volunteer work. Neither are they all courageous or all apathetic. The point is that they are all different.

Behind that youth unemployment statistic are living, breathing, struggling individuals who depend upon and deserve our support.

The Huffington Post is backing The Prince's Trust & Samsung Celebrate Success Awards, recognising young people who have turned their lives around with help from the charity. The Mappin & Webb Young Ambassador of the Year Award in association with the Huffington Post recognises young people who volunteer their time, share their personal experiences and inspire others. #PTCelebrate