Unlocking Potential The Prince's Trust's Multi-Agency Approach to Empowering Northern Ireland's Youth

Nathan McAuley, Head of Service Delivery for the Prince’s Trust in Northern Ireland, sets out the impact that a package of support can have on empowering the talent of tomorrow and giving an equitable position to all our young talent starting on their career journey.

If you reflect on the journey leading up to your very first paid job, you might recall the invaluable support you received from those around you – a teacher, friend, family member, or mentor. Perhaps they helped you create your first CV or coached you for your first job interview. However, for many young people in Northern Ireland, such support may have been lacking, making that initial leap into employment a daunting challenge. As you look back on your first job, you may recognise the significant impact it had on your skills development and personal growth. Did it bolster your confidence, enhance your communication skills, or elevate your self-esteem?

Each year, The Prince’s Trust provides essential support to over 10,000 young people aged 16-30 in Northern Ireland across the themes of Education, Employment and Enterprise, equipping them with the confidence and skills needed to succeed. Some of our hardest to reach young people face a range of barriers, from a lack of basic skills and entry-level qualifications to issues related to mental health and wellbeing, as well as financial obstacles and rural isolation. Economic Inactivity has also presented a significant challenge, with many young people facing employment barriers due to living with a disability or long-term illness or having caring responsibilities.

I wonder if you can identify with any of those barriers. Do you remember wanting to complete a qualification but couldn’t afford the fees? Have you ever experienced self-doubt and decided not to apply for that job? Have you thought about becoming self-employed but didn’t know where to start?

Recognising the complexity and prevalence of these challenges, The Prince’s Trust adopts a comprehensive approach, offering a tailored “package of support” for every young person. For some young people that “intervention” could be short-term, for example, the provision of a financial grant to access an education course. For others, the support required could be significant and long term, involving multiple stakeholders. Progressing young people facing such multifaceted barriers requires a collaborative effort. It’s not merely about connecting them with job vacancies, but about providing holistic support that addresses their diverse needs and circumstances.

At the Prince’s Trust, we recognise that no single organisation can address the complex needs of young people alone. Therefore, we actively work with a wide range of partners, including government, schools, colleges, community organisations, and businesses (for example Microsoft and Marks & Spencer), to coordinate our support services to benefit young peoples’ lives. Through these partnerships, we leverage our collective expertise and resources to provide comprehensive support tailored to the unique needs of each young person. Getting the support package right for some young people for example, might include specialised counselling from partner organisations, one-on-one engagement with Prince’s Trust staff, engagement with a local College to secure a qualification, mentorship from a volunteer, and support from an employer partner to secure employment. By working together to address the underlying factors that may hinder progress, we can empower young people to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals, both in the workplace and beyond.

Reflecting on your career, are you still working in the same sector as that first job? Maybe you retrained to change direction. Maybe you turned a hobby into a viable business. No doubt you encountered challenges along the way, and what at the time might have seemed to be insurmountable obstacles, on reflection may now look like stepping stones that led you to where you are today.

For our young people today, we need to recognise the reality of an ever-changing employment landscape. Once buoyant industries are in decline, while other sectors have seen a resurgence and continue to grow. The integration of AI brings both opportunity and uncertainty to multiple sectors. Hybrid working has become common place in many workplaces and presents new challenges for employers. Economic uncertainty creates an unstable environment for Entrepreneurship.

Are we equipping the young people of today for the opportunities of tomorrow?

Could you lend your support to our vital work at The Prince’s Trust? Could we work together to build talent pipelines for your business, whilst you help The Trust empower young people, enabling them to overcome barriers, and ultimately, realise their full potential. Together, we can make a tangible difference in the lives of tomorrow’s leaders and entrepreneurs.

For more information get in touch with Nathan on [email protected]

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