22/11/2013 08:21 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 16:01 GMT

When the Brathay Apprentices Met the Deputy Prime Minister


Last week I, along with five other apprentices from the Brathay Apprentice Challenge 2013, met with Nick Clegg to discuss the issue of how only 47% of young people take part in community projects.

As part of the Brathay Apprentice Challenge teams have to take part in community projects. This meant that we all know the benefits that community projects bring to an area. At the finals we discussed why young people don't get involved in community projects and how we can combat it.

We found a number of reasons why young people generally don't get involved in community projects:

  • A lot of young people feel genuinely disillusioned and ineffective within society
  • Charities and institutions that are in need of community projects have very little interaction with young people
  • There aren't any qualifications or rewards for completing a community project
  • Many young people don't know about the problems within their communities and if they do, they don't know where to begin when looking for voluntary work to help make a difference
  • And finally, it's just seen as "uncool" to help out within the community

To address these problems we came up with three main recommendations.

Firstly there should be a nationally recognised certificate that people can receive after completion of a community project. Secondly, there should also be more recognition from employers and universities for volunteering in recruitment process. And finally, the government should launch a campaign - backed by relevant, influential, people - to tackle the stigma behind community projects being uncool or irrelevant.

So on the 14th November we actually got the chance to talk to the Deputy Prime Minister and put these recommendations forward. I must be honest, I thought that overall this would amount to nothing and it would just be a quick chat with Nick Clegg, but I must say I was pleasantly surprised. The Minister seemed very interested in what we had to say and took everything onboard, asking us about our views on how this problem could be tackled.

Where we were only meant to have a short amount of time the Deputy Prime Minister stayed much longer really wanting to understand what we were saying and understand more about the Brathay Apprentice Challenge and our own experiences of community projects.

The Deputy Prime Minister was especially interested in how we thought the campaign to have community projects shown in a different light and who the influential people would be and how we could get them to take part. We suggested that along with the usual celebrity endorsement: footballers, musicians, and actors/actresses - that business leaders should also get involved in getting their employees to take part.

Fellow apprentice Alex Hunt mentioned that Unilever give back holidays taken to complete community projects - so if you take a week off you only need to take two days holiday rather than the full five - allowing employees to have a much more active role within the community. This is a really good starting point as even with celebrity backing if people don't have the time to physically go out and get involved people will be less likely to start the work.

We're now in the process of writing up our recommendations so that the Minister can formally review all of our points and recommendations, reinforcing the point that this wasn't just a quick half-hour chat with Mr Clegg but in fact the start of a real solution to a real problem.