Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, Shadow Minister for Employment, today visited William Ellis School in Camden to hear how young people are giving a year of service to support pupils as mentors, tutors and role models and are gaining employability skills at the same time.
Mr Thomas-Symonds met with Headteacher Sam White and pupils to learn about the impact City Year UK has on their school and he took part in a roundtable discussion with its team of volunteers.
Last year, a survey found that secondary school pupils supported by City Year UK increased their academic attainment and belief in their prospects. At the beginning of the year, 73 per cent of pupils said planning for the future was a waste of time but by the end of the year that had fallen to just 20 per cent.
During the visit, the Shadow Minister had the opportunity to ask the 18 to 25-year-olds about their personal and professional development over the year. He heard how the City Year model is proven to build the transferable skills crucial for future employment of its volunteers such as confidence, public speaking, working with others, creative problem solving and self-discipline.
Since City Year UK began in 2010, 91% of the charity’s graduates were in permanent paid work or full-time study just three months after leaving the programme. Independent research from the award-winning social enterprise Renasi has also found a tiny 3% unemployment rate of among its alumni, dwarfing the youth unemployment rate nationally.
The same research also indicated the City Year experience is effective in creating opportunities and outcomes for its graduates and levels the playing field for the young people it recruits from richer and poorer backgrounds.
Nabihah Ahmed, 21, who’s volunteering at William Ellis School, said: “City Year has helped me feel more prepared for the world of work. I have become more confident in stepping out of my comfort zone and introducing myself to people I don’t know. Supporting pupils who depend on me has given me great organisational and communication skills, as well as punctuality and has shown me how vital it is to be reliable. As a member of a strong team, I have also developed my ability to work with people from diverse backgrounds. The only thing I feel my City Year hasn’t prepared me for is whether I’ll enjoy the world of work as much as I’ve enjoyed my year of service!”
A snapshot of all City Year UK alumni since 2010 found an unemployment rate of just 3 per cent, with more than eight out of ten saying that their City Year had enabled them to develop skills that they could apply to any job. In addition, the same independent research found that the City Year experience was effective in creating similar opportunities and outcomes for young people from both low income and better off backgrounds, suggesting that it levels the playing field for young people from all walks of life.
Nick Thomas-Symonds MP said: “The City Year volunteers were truly inspirational. They improve the life chances of so many with their commitment, determination and good humour. They bring enormous benefits for the young people at William Ellis whilst at the same time gaining invaluable skills and experience which will help them to stand out to employers and equip them for the workplace. It was a pleasure to talk to them and to some of the students they have been working with and to hear about the impact of the scheme. I hope it will continue to go from strength to strength.”
Sam White, Headteacher at William Ellis said: “We’ve partnered with City Year UK for nearly four years and the charity’s volunteers have helped us improve attendance, transform behaviour and engage pupils in class. They are out in the playground running activities, organise breakfast club, help take kids on trips and have been involved in specific ‘workplace readiness’ days, encouraging our Year 9s to begin to think about different skills and the variety of career paths open to them. It’s also great to see how the experience benefits the volunteers themselves.”
Sophie Livingstone, Chief Executive of City Year UK said: “It’s fantastic that Nick Thomas-Symonds MP could visit William Ellis today to see the impact of our inspirational volunteers. Our programme is evidence of a double benefit in action. Our volunteers help improve the attainment, attitude, attendance and behaviour of pupils and, through their year of service, our young people gain invaluable frontline experience, transferable skills and access to new networks that will help them decide on, and secure, the career they want to go on to.”