A couple of weeks ago I volunteered to help out at Aquinas Sixth Form College with some interview training.
I sat across the table from eight different young people with all their hopes dreams and aspirations laid bare, and tried to give them a first experience of what it’s like to talk about themselves one-to-one with a complete stranger for 15 minutes or so.
These were students who the college has identified as having real potential and suggested to them that they should apply to top universities.
Let me mention first why I did it.
Young people have had a rough ride. Most of these did their GCSE year in lockdown. They’ve bounced from one challenging time of life into a new educational setting.
The future is full of volatility and economic uncertainty. Technology is changing so fast that it puts real pressure on what students can learn that will be useful to them.
As I look back from my comfortable position in midlife, I’ve made a promise to myself to say yes to such requests for help. Each and every offer of a helpful word, or a guiding hand, that I had when I was young, wasn’t always grasped at. But when I did, it was valuable.
You know too that the posh kids at the top private schools will have pushy Dads coming in to talk about careers in the City and corporate life.
But it’s also because I’m sick to the back teeth with employers complaining about the lack of skills of young people entering the workforce, but doing naff all about addressing it.
Most, if not all, of the students I spoke to had never had a job interview or been grilled by an admissions tutor at a university. But nearly all of them had part-time jobs in shops, pubs and restaurants. A couple had e-commerce microsites selling things they’ve made on platforms like Etsy and eBay.
I think that’s amazing and is really something to shout about. So is building your resilience by talking to workmates and customers.
Each and every one of us has a story, a view of the world that is entirely unique to us.
I was keen to make them feel comfortable and establish common ground. A bit needy, I know, but I at least wanted to get them talking about what mattered to them.
As a part-time DJ I find that music is such a great unifier, whatever our personal likes.
It’s amazing how often music provides that bridge. One of the students told me her favourite artist at this year’s Parklife Festival was Joy Crookes, who burst onto the scene last year and who we played on our show a few times. I also had the conversation about Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill with the Stranger Things fans.
Music ignites the passions, sport and literature and films do too. Sharing experiences won’t solve the world’s problems, but if it’s the simple act of listening and understanding the world from someone else’s perspective, then that’s got to be a good thing.
I don't know if it made any difference or not, but if I can leave you with one thought, it's this. Volunteer to help out with this kind of thing. Share your experience. As John Lennon sort of said, all we are saying, is give kids a chance.
(column in the Tameside Reporter and Glossop Chronicle, July 2022)