THE BLOG
11/10/2013 08:35 BST | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Young People Are Unemployed and Unengaged - But We Have an Answer

There is no easy answer to youth unemployment. When young people took to the streets to riot two years ago, questions were asked. Why do young people not seem to care about the destruction of their communities? Why are so many unemployed? What can we do about it?

Since then, the situation has only worsened. More than one million under 25s are now unemployed. Through the economic downturn, young people have seen their access to welfare going down and the barriers to education and employment going up.

But the problem goes much further than unemployment. Young people do not feel they have a stake in society. In the most diverse and deprived communities the situation is at its worst.

We asked the same questions ten years ago when we were commissioned to do some research following the Northern Disturbances of 2001. Our answer was UpRising, a leadership programme that brings young people in these communities face to face with the social issues on their doorstep and challenges them to do something about it.

Society has to give a chance to young people who have the potential to become its leaders.

We gave a chance to Daniel Bridgewater when he was living on jobseekers allowance. He is from a low income household in Northfields, Birmingham. During his year with us, he launched his first business, a socially driven theatre company called the Fourth Wall Theatre Network - at the age of 19.

We gave a chance to Ifraah Samatar. She moved to Hackney from Somalia when she was 9 and quickly picked up English; her mother did not. She knew lots of younger people in her community who faced similar challenges.

"Society has given up on motivating young people. It has created a generational idea of what young people are like" says Ifraah, 24.

We challenged Ifraah to do something about it. She ran a community campaign called Inter-Voice to support young people in Tower Hamlets who have to interpret for their families. It was so successful, she took it to Downing Street and presented it at Parliament. Now she has launched her own tuition centre and is working with two others from the programme to turn Inter-Voice into a sustainable enterprise.

We gave a chance to Nikita Hayden when she was working in Pizza Express in Bedford.

"I had no idea where my life was going. I hated my job, I wanted to get out of Bedford and I felt isolated in my community."

She ran a campaign called FutureWeek to encourage state school children to consider their career options or to go to university. It landed her a job at the University of Bedfordshire. It also gave her a place to call home.

"It made me fall in love with my community. Now I could happily live in Bedford for the rest of my life."

For young people, the biggest barriers to employment can be psychological. All too often leadership appears as a phenomenon played out in stuffy boardrooms and inaccessible institutions by those privileged enough to have learnt the right skills and accessed the right social networks.

This is not what leadership means to us. We open up the doors of these institutions and put a face to the country's leaders. We give our young people the softer skills that school did not teach them but the workplace demands.

Leadership does not trickle down from the old and established but rises up from the young and ambitious.

Five years on, we know that it works. We recently asked our alumni what they have gone on to do since completing the programme. Their answers were astonishing.

When our young people enter the job market, they also enter public life.

One in ten told us they are a charity trustee; a position of leadership famously the arena for those at the end of their careers. One in twenty are school governors. One in six have gone on to launch their own social enterprise.

Daniel, now 22, has gone on to do all three. He still lives in Northfields in Birmingham. He wouldn't live anywhere else.