Engaging disengaged youth PART 3

kerrygrace-2014 Get it done

If you’ve been following our posts about disengaged youth, and the project I’m developing to create a swag of school based traineeships you might be asking yourself WHY I’m bothering in the first place?

I am the owner of a growing business, I have three children and I’m a busy lady.  Why bother getting into the trenches to involve myself in creating a solution around an incredibly frustrating and seemingly broken system?


Because I believe as a business owner, as a human we have the responsibility to do what we can to make the world better for other people.  I believe that when we use our skills – not just our money to contribute we bring in a whole different layer of help.

I’ve seen ‘rich’ people throw money at ‘poor’ people with dire consequences.  Who says that people need to be fixed?  Sometimes they just need a real and relevant pathway – a pathway that is of interest to them.

I hated my senior years of high school (well, the school part anyway).  I hated them because the teachers didn’t have the skill, patience nor creativity to engage me.  In fact, the most useful bit of information I recall receiving went something like this:

“oh!  is the reason that you don’t want to do sport that your parents have split” (concerned teacher) – “oh yes, yes” I told the teacher “yes it is” and with that my first marketing campaign was born.  I just didn’t like the sport options and I liked being at school even less.  My new found reason earned me at least 3hrs off school each and every week.  Fabulous through my 16 year old eyes.

In my experience of schools – and I’m sure this is a sweeping generalisation – they are pretty big dodos when it comes to engaging entrepreneurial kids and kids that don’t quite fit within the norms of the system. I was most certainly one of those kids.

In fact, I think my only saving grace through that time was a really solid early childhood, being well known to the community and thereby looked out for – and the opportunities to get involved in activities outside of school with particular reference to:

1. The local RSL club had a youth centre where I became the resident gymnastics teacher.  There I could enjoy my sport, work with kids and at the same time earn some good pocket money.

2. The Young Achievers Program – where as marketing manager I worked with others from the school to create, market and sell first aid kits in the year it was legislated that every workplace must have one.

3. A program called ‘Building Bridges’ which used music to bring Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community together.  I played in a band with other friends and we did numerous gigs around the place.  Unbeknownst to younger me this created another community who looked out for me.  Another safety net.  At the same time inspiring a lifelong respect for Aboriginal culture.

I believe the other thing that guided me was a fundamental love of learning that was nurtured by teachers in my early years, and clearly at home.

But not all kids are that lucky.  What if home isn’t safe?  What if the early years weren’t so easy?  Couple that with dodo teachers and it’s a toxic pathway to who knows where.

That’s why I believe School Based Traineeships should be embraced by the business community – I believe that it is this sector that must take hold of the concept and run with it.

And let’s face it, there’s so much that a YENTOR (a mentor from generation Y – or Zentor) can give a business.  Take for example the day I accidentally registered for www.meetme.com rather than www.meetme.so.  My gorgeous Yentor steered me promptly onto the straight and narrow clearly pointing out that there’s a big difference in the ‘types’ of appointments one might schedule in the two systems.

My first school based trainee started working with me half way through year ten.  He is an absolutely gorgeous young man and it’s been an utter delight to see his skills develop over the years.  He will graduate his Higher School Certificate this year.

So, business owners, let me inspire you.  If you’re by any way interested in bringing a young person into your organisation for any reason my suggestion – do it !  Where to start?  Get in touch with an organisation such as Youth Directions as a first point of contact.  Talk to parents you know – or, if you’re really brave get in touch with the school. If you’re going to take that route be prepared for bottle necks and know what you want.  Yeah OK, they aren’t all completely inefficient, in fact, I’ve just been delighted to find a career adviser who cares and knows what she’s doing in my locale.  What I’m saying though is don’t let a big system put you off.

It’s time for the business community to really put some action around helping young people.  You will change lives.