Making connections – regardless of situation or experience

A parliamentary reception, local MPs, pupils, a teacher and BITC Cymru’s own LifeSkills Coordinator Natalie Roberts. A perfect Christmas present for everyone involved in LifeSkills in Wales.

It’s not every day that I am invited to attend a parliamentary reception in the House of Commons. But, when the opportunity came across my desk to celebrate the powerful impact that the Barclays’ LifeSkills programme is having in Wales and across the rest of the UK, I jumped at it. I also grabbed two pupils from Cyfarthfa High and their teacher as I was jumping.

LifeSkills is a free-to-access, curriculum-linked resource, developed by Barclays and delivered in Wales by Business in the Community (BITC) Cymru. It is giving thousands of young people from across South and West Wales – including Cerys and David from Cyfarthfa – the opportunity to develop their interview, personal communication and money management skills and support them as they take their first step on the career ladder.

Out and about in London

Off on the train and with plenty of time when we arrived, the four of us took in the sights of Westminster and Whitehall, something that Cerys and David had not done before. Once at the Palace of Westminster we were ushered through to the Churchill Room. We soon met two Welsh MPs, Craig Williams (Conservative, Cardiff North) and Gerald Jones (Labour, Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney) who wanted to hear from the pupils about their experience of taking part in LifeSkills workshops and the difference it was making to them. Both MPs were also delighted to hear that over 21,000 young people in Wales have experienced a LifeSkills session – and Gerald Jones MP was kind enough to give us a private tour!  

The event also featured contributions from Clara Brodie (aged 18, member of the LifeSkills Youth Advisory Panel) and Baroness Karren Brady CBE (Chair, LifeSkills Advisory Council). This was the first time Baroness Brady had heard from the Youth Advisory Panel and she joked that it was clear to her that Caitlin and her peers were clearly ready to “rule the world” – a feeling I could relate to having heard them make such powerful and inspiring remarks.

Meeting and making connections

This is one of the brilliant moments that BITC Cymru makes happen, not only through LifeSkills, but also through programmes like Business Class. The opportunity for young people to speak directly with people they perhaps may never have met before, or may never be likely to meet. Research from 2012 indicates that if a young person has four or more “interactions with employers” they were five times less likely to become NEET (not in education, employment or training). The two Welsh MPs were not the only new contacts that the pupils made. Both Cerys and David also had the opportunity to talk to Baroness Brady about LifeSkills in Wales and hear her views on why employers working with young people is so vital to the future of the UK economy – and the lives of those young people.

BITC Cymru is at its best when we bring people together, regardless of their personal demographics, employment situation, seniority or life experience. This is what is at the heart of our work with responsible businesses in Wales and across the UK. Pupils from one of the most deprived parts of Wales meeting a leading businesswoman and Members of Parliament to discuss what they themselves are going to do next with their lives and how important it is for employers to get involved and take a stake in the wellbeing of future generations and our shared economy.

We are looking forward to building on the success of LifeSkills in Wales and working with more young people and more volunteers from Barclays. BITC Cymru began delivering LifeSkills sessions in Wales in September 2014. Now, building on the scope and reach of the delivery achieved to date, BITC Cymru will continue delivering workshops through to August 2019 with the aim of reaching 30,000 more young people.

Following this event, Rhian George from Cyfarthfa High was invited to join (and accepted) Barclays’ new LifeSkills Teacher Advisory Council, which helps the company ensure that the programme is meeting the needs of both young people and teachers across the UK. If you would like to find out more about bringing LifeSkills to your school, please contact natalie.roberts@bitc.org.uk