It’s now been two months since we launched My City and Me – a project that gives young Londoners a creative platform to tell their Covid-19 stories. We have also joined forces with the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York to connect NYC and London youth and share experiences of the pandemic. We have seen
“Identity in its most basic form means a sense of belonging”
Our colleague, Sietske van der Ploeg is Head of Portfolio Performance and Social Impact at the Mayors’ Fund. Here she reflects on a conference she spoke at last week about identity and what it means in relation to the world of work:
You may be familiar with research that demonstrates the long-term, scarring effects of unemployment on young people – being out of work at a young age may affect future pay, risk social exclusion and result in a diminished sense of optimism about life.
There is another, often underreported, element to youth unemployment.
Identity in its most basic form means a sense of belonging. Being connected to your social relationships: family, carers, friends and your immediate community.
Last week, we were asked to present at the Working Identities Conference at Cumberland Lodge, a charity that empowers people, through dialogue and debate, to tackle the causes and effects of social division. The topic of the conference was ‘Working Identities’ and we explored how being out of work may affect identity.
In preparation, I interviewed a number of young people we had worked with previously through several of our programmes. Some were now in full-time employment, some were in full-time education, others were neither. All of them had experienced unemployment at some point in their life.
We talked about moving from teenagehood to adulthood, a time in life where very few things are set. A time that is defined by transition and choice. Simple things like your preferred style of clothing or your favourite music, to choosing friendships you establish, the type of career you’re aspiring to, or the kind of person you want to become.
When I asked them what the worst thing about being unemployed was, they all came up with similar answers about how they felt:
‘Embarrassed’…‘Invisible’…‘Failure’…‘Lonely’…‘Not fitting in’…‘Vulnerable’…‘Self-doubt’
No one spoke about the lack of work experience or the potential of reduced earnings later in life. The most fundamental impact mentioned was related to wellbeing, self-belief, and identity. And it is easy to see how work helps shape identity: the colleagues you connect to, the job title you hold, the money you earn.
Moving into adulthood and building a meaningful career is a hugely important phase in life. It is so much more than having relevant skills and qualifications. In a city of great potential and challenge, we need to support young people with options, networks, and opportunities. Only then can they explore their future and take informed decisions about who and what they want to become.
An update from our CEO
Three months ago, the world changed. Lockdown was announced and instantly much of our daily lives and routines ground to a halt. Though it was difficult in those first few weeks to assess precisely how much low income families would be affected, we knew there was no time to lose. So, we turned to you.
Careers advice in a time of uncertainty
by Phillip Jolly, Employment Programmes Manager at Mayor’s Fund for London Young Londoners are facing a time of uncertainty that none of us could have anticipated at the start of this year. Most students are losing out on classroom-based learning and face an unclear return to school in the autumn with social distancing and blended learning being discussed. Within the Mayor’s Fund, we’re