I first heard about UK Youth this past May. I was sitting in my universities dining hall when I received an email from my internship placement manager asking if she could send my CV over. I was immediately overwhelmed with excitement. I had been planning my study abroad trip to London for almost a year and the anticipation of my work placement was almost too much to bear.
I remember finding UK Youth on Google and picturing how my four weeks would go if I got the placement. Thoughts of the work environment, British humor, job tasks, cultural differences, and office snack selections were swirling through my head. I was nervous about going to a country I had never been to before to work in a sector I had no experience with. So, in true Texan fashion, I told my placement manager to send my CV right over.
Sitting in the dining hall on that rainy day in May, I could have never anticipated learning so much in only four weeks. On one of my first days with UK Youth, I went to the Strategy and Innovation Group meeting, which you can read about here. After that meeting, I realized just how impactful the work that UK Youth does really is! The Innovators, people and organisations who want to go further and collaborate with UK Youth, in the UK Youth Movement were extremely passionate not only about their work but everything UK Youth does to support them with it.
My second week of work I attended two more workshops, one on the Youth Achievement Awards and one on Youth Work Essentials. The Youth Achievement Awards training was in Birmingham, which is the second-largest city in England and, I was shocked to discover, has many seagulls despite its far distance from the sea! Youth workers from all over attended the training and I was able to meet each of them to hear about the work they do – I was once again blown away by the passion and drive youth workers in this country possess.
I was equally impressed with the impact that the Youth Achievement Awards have. I was not quite sure what the YAAs were going into the training, but through my conversations with the youth workers I realized the tremendous effect they have on youth’s confidence and sense of self. One youth worker was telling me how so many of the young people she worked with felt reenergized by striving for meaningful accomplishments. I never realized how important it is to have something to work towards as a young person. The feeling of accomplishing a project and getting to know yourself better along the way is truly unmatched.
The Youth Worker Essentials class was held in Brighton, which also had seagulls…only slightly feistier than those in Birmingham. At this event I was able to hear about the creative ways youth workers in Brighton are engaging young people. One worker has a theater club in which youth can participate after school. It’s a safe place for them to let their creative energy out without fear of judgement. Another worker hosts art classes for young people and gives them the opportunity to bring their family members to the workshop. Their latest projects involve 3D pens and fidget spinners. Youth workers across the country are identifying gaps in youth services offered and are creatively finding ways to fill them.
The workshops and the research I’ve done has exposed me to many different issues that young people in the UK face and the strategies different organizations adopt to tackle them. I’ve learned about the barriers to engaging young people, how to overcome them, as well as the importance in staying energized about the work we do. Most of all, I have learned how the UK Youth Movement is lifting young people up and amplifying their voices in a way that I haven’t seen back home. The passion and resilience I’ve encountered during my time here, especially by the staff at UK Youth, has left a lasting impact on me. The work they are doing here is mission driven and full of spirit, so much so that it is almost impossible to leave the office without feeling it. Though my time at UK Youth has drawn to an end, I look forward to continuing my advocacy for the youth sector when I return to Texas.
This blog was written by Sophia Brinkley, a university student from Texas who undertook a work experience placement at UK Youth with the Engagement and Advocacy Team.