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Life changing opportunities for young people to RISE up

Today marks the UN’s International Youth Day. Started in 1999, this day is an annual celebration of the role of young people as essential partners in change, and an opportunity to raise awareness of challenges and problems facing the world’s youth.

This year’s theme is “Transforming Education”. It highlights efforts to make education more relevant, inclusive and accessible for all youth – something I have been passionate about making happen since Talent RISE first launched in Australia.

Our mission is to create pathways and life-changing opportunities for young people experiencing barriers to employment, with the ultimate goal of placing them into meaningful jobs and careers. However, the barriers young people face in finding work can often relate to their experiences in education. For example, in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and the US, gaps between the most affluent and the less advantaged open up from an early age, continue through education and are then carried forward into the workplace. The 2018 OECD report shows that an average of 84 per cent of young people within OECD countries complete upper secondary education. The UK rates slightly better, with 87.3 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds completing upper secondary schooling. Australia’s rate of Year 12 completion is lower than both, with an average school completion rate of 83 per cent, in the Northern Territory, this goes down to 72.8 per cent. New Zealand scores only slightly higher with an 83.5% completion rate.

These statics show that all too often young people are shoe-horned into traditional academic routes that don’t suit them, resulting in them leaving school before completing their final years. However, we know from speaking to many employers that traditional academic routes aren’t the only, or even best, ways into employment. As we move ever deeper into the digital age there is a whole range of new job roles emerging that require a unique and different skill set not necessarily addressed in the current education system.

This is why we are so passionate about providing real-world opportunities to young people that can, in turn, can help shape the direction of future careers and entire lives. So, to mark International Youth Day, we wanted to highlight the positive effect that opportunities have had on the incredible young people Talent RISE has worked with over the past years.

These are people like Benny and Katie, whose passion for video games design was hindered by the fact that they had no knowledge about how to convert their passion into a career. Through RISE, they got the chance to visit EA Games’ offices in Surrey and received some brilliant careers advice from EA’s Talent Acquisition team, giving them a clear picture of the path they need to take to reach their dream careers.

They’re also people like Reza, who was 18 when he escaped war-torn Afghanistan. He arrived in Australia by boat; alone, scared and with limited English. Like a lot of asylum seekers, the only employment he could get was low paid, part-time work with no opportunities for a career or progression. His dream of becoming a designer seemed impossible to him until he met Talent RISE.

Our global ambassador, Karl Lokko, knows better than anyone the power of opportunity. He grew up on a gang-ridden housing estate in South London, witnessed his first shooting at the age of 12 and went on to be shot at, stabbed, and saw many of his friends murdered as he rose through the ranks to become one of London’s most high-profile gang leaders. It wasn’t until the intervention of an anti-youth violence project that Karl was able to denounce his gang involvement and turn his life around.

Now a successful campaigner, poet, and public speaker, Karl works to reform gang culture and is passionate about helping all young people achieve their goals and find their purpose. To mark International Youth Day this year, he wrote and performed his brand new poem, ‘Everything but the building.’ which highlights the importance of inclusive education for all. Watch it here:

You might see many of the Talent team sharing their own stories of their #firstopportunity to help highlight how life changing these can be. If you believe in the need for change, join us in recognising International Youth Day. If you or your business is in a position to offer a young person a life changing opportunity please contact me or the RISE team, we have many young people who just need that important first opportunity.

Follow and join the conversation on social media using #FirstOpportunity.