Renaisi is the Learning Partner for the Connected Futures programme.

Eleanor Langdale, Project Manager, captures reflections on how best we can support seven local partnerships on their journey to pioneering employment support for young people.

Renaisi’s Kezia, Lily, Eleanor and Rachel at the Birmingham event. Photo by Dan Knott Photography.

Connected Futures is Youth Futures Foundation’s flagship £16 million programme to support young people to get into good jobs through building local partnerships. Seven place-based partnerships are spending one year understanding the youth employment problem in their areas, before developing a collaborative programme to improve their local youth employment system.

Youth Futures appointed Renaisi to work with places to build and develop innovative research approaches, encourage reflection on their local systems and what they are learning, and support sharing of skills and knowledge between places. We are also working to understand common themes and share what we learn about place-based youth employment support.

Places came together in Birmingham late last year to share hopes and fears about the journey that lies ahead. The event was led by Youth Futures and facilitated by Renaisi consultants.

“It was great to see people from the places connecting with each other, and sharing their experiences and ideas. There was a feeling of excitement about embarking on new ways of working together, and learning from each other across this unique programme.”

Eleanor Langdale, Project Manager

What we learnt at the event

Employment challenges young people face

At the collaboration event, we heard from young people on the Youth Futures’ Future Voices group about the challenges they face in getting into good jobs. They include:

  • Poor well-being – young people said that mental health and confidence have suffered since Covid-19, and some young people feel trapped in local areas with a lack of opportunities.
  • Generic support and advice – schools and advice services can offer advice that pushes young people towards standard jobs or courses and doesn’t account for their unique skills or ambitions.
  • Lack of experience – volunteering is often presented as the means to get experience but not everyone can afford to take on unpaid work.
  • Systemic barriers – include a lack of cheap and accessible transport that prevents travelling for work, the criminal justice system and policing can build trust issues with services, especially in Black communities, the current benefits system can mean that you lose income for your family if you get work.

What young people want

They told us they want:

  • Meet young people where they are. Honour and respect how they can be involved
  • Focus on building trust to allow young people to open up and share their experiences
  • Long-term tailored careers support and coaching that helps to show the route from skills and interests into work
  • Incentives like vouchers, social events, and food for all engagements
  • Accessible and relevant role models from their communities who have experienced unemployment and have found good work
  • Paid internships and apprenticeships as a viable route to employment

What the places want to achieve through Connected Futures

‘Our impact’ information board shows a map and states £20.8m allocated to 153 organisations, 17,575 young people supported. 7 places in the Connected Futures programme. Photo by Dan Knott Photography.

Ambitions across the places were high, including:

  • To listen to, capture and bring together the full range of young people’s experiences and backgrounds – making an intentional effort to bring in young people that are most marginalised.  
  • To develop solutions based on how young people feel and what they want – with robust evidence to demonstrate that being young person-centred is the right approach.
  • To support employers to build an avenue to engage with young people who are looking to enter the workforce – into roles where they feel fulfilled and meet the business demands of the future.
  • To build the confidence to challenge the system and ask difficult questions about what it would take to challenge their local systems.

How Renaisi will support as Learning Partners

While plans will shift and adapt as the programme evolves and young people take a greater role in the programme, we had initial reflections on how we can support partnerships and young people following the event.

Empower young people: Young people can bring out unique insights in this process as researchers and as partnership members, but they need the tools to do so. We will provide young peer researchers with the necessary tools and training to navigate data, reach the right people with their research, and support them to come to a collective understanding of what it means.

Make time to build place-based relationships: Relationships within a place are complex and take time to understand. We will work to build strong relationships with local partners and young people to help us to makes sense of local dynamics. That way we can support partnerships to understand where they can influence the local employment system to have the greatest impact.

Be flexible: The Connected Futures programme is encouraging an innovative and risk-taking approach and recognises that this means plans will change and adapt along the way. As a Learning Partner, our support must be flexible and build in tools and mechanisms for meaningful iterative feedback.

I am so excited to be at the heart of this programme and to be working with the amazing young people and places involved. I look forward to sharing more of what we learn along the way.

Find out more about the Connected Futures Fund.

Eleanor Langdale