The Power of Diverse Voices Within the Workforce
Now ten months into the role, the College’s Communications and Partnerships Assistant Erin Metcalfe reflects on her graduate journey to the College, and how investing in young people within your staff team can lead to greater impact.
August marks my ten-month anniversary here at YMCA George Williams College, and whilst that might not seem long in the grand scheme of things, the development of my skills and understanding of the sector has been significant.
My route into the College wasn’t a typical job application process. After completing my Masters in International Development, I knew the third sector was the career pathway I wanted to explore, and so, I began to search for graduate scheme opportunities. That is when I found Charityworks – an organisation aiming to create a network of leading non-profit organisations committed to building capacity through collaboration.
After undergoing the five rounds of the application process, I was lucky enough to gain a place on the scheme. As part of this, I had to select my preferred location for my 12-month placement with a charity. This is where it got tricky. As a young person from the North West of England, I ideally wanted a hybrid job in my local area but selecting the North West as my preferred location automatically included a vast region, where a three hour train journey could be my daily commute. Yet even this presented me with no opportunities. It was only when broadening my preferences even further, including fully-remote work, that I was offered an opportunity in London.
This experience was not unique to my placement search but a multi-faceted issue that many young people across England are facing. As The Guardian found, there is a concentration of opportunities in the South of England for young people, rising high above available opportunities in the North. There is also a higher concentration of funding and organisational income in Southern England compared to the North. And it’s not just funding or income that is the problem – budget cuts are also greater in the North of England than in the South, resulting in scaling back or closure of organisations or services that in turn could provide employment opportunities to local communities and young people.
Joining the College in October, in my role as Communications and Partnerships Assistant, enabled me to view the third sector from a completely different lens. Working for an infrastructure body has meant I’ve had the opportunity to see many aspects of the youth sector and be part of a team that strives to benefit communities and the sector as a whole. I have had lots of diversity in my role so far, working with all departments. That is the beauty of communications, it isn’t just an independent behind-the-scenes role but a collaborative effort that is embedded within each strand across the organisation. Knowing how much I’ve enjoyed my role, I can’t help but think of how many other young people could benefit had they access to the same opportunities for employment and skills development.
And this benefit doesn’t just extend to young people. Embedding opportunities to diversify your workforce with people from different regions, ages, and with different experiences, can provide fresh ideas and perspective within your programmes and approaches, and support young people to develop both personally and professionally. As youth organisations, it is important that we ‘walk the walk’ and invest in all young people – no matter where they live - through equitable employment and training opportunities to nurture the knowledge and skills necessary to strengthen their future prospects. Investing in opportunities, education, and training will allow organisations to work more efficiently towards an equitable culture and allow young people to gain valuable skills and experience.
This, however, relies on funding, and this is twofold. Firstly, increased funding geared towards staffing and recruitment provides organisations with the resources needed to implement equitable recruitment initiatives. Secondly, funding smaller organisations in the North, supporting them with the time and resources to develop and ensure employment opportunities are continuous and diverse, can inherently lead to more job opportunities and a growth of workforce.
Embedding youth voice throughout all of our work is needed now more than ever. And as youth organisations wanting to demonstrate our commitment to youth voice and youth representation, it is also important to recognise that this includes both long-term volunteering and employment opportunities. From working with and hearing from young people, to ensuring that their voices are captured and embedded through every aspect of delivery, organisations would be able to tailor efforts and utilise valuable insights into different cultures and communities, ensuring that youth provision is inclusive to all those around the country. To do this, we cannot rely on representation alone, we also must foster inclusive practices and policies, and make sure that the opportunities are accessible, meaningful, and tailored to all.
Having regional voices within your team doesn’t just mean you will expand your thinking about whether gravy belongs on chips, or which football team is better – although these are worthy discussion points. Instead, creating opportunities, working collectively with young people from all over the country, and viewing difference as an organisational strength rather than a barrier, will allow us all to progress. It will allow us to progress towards a more diverse sector, but also progress our provision through greater innovation, creative solutions, and ideas. By embracing our uniqueness, and the uniqueness of others, we can strive towards the better sector we all wish for.