Youth Ambassador Olivia: “Give young people the opportunity to demonstrate their skills”

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Meet Olivia Watkins, one of our volunteer Youth Ambassadors helping to empower other young people today.

You can also read more Youth Ambassador stories, and volunteer as a Youth Ambassador if you live in the UK and you’re aged 16-24…

Tell us a bit about you…

My name is Olivia and I am a 19 year old student studying an MA in Arabic and Persian at the University of Edinburgh. I am also a sailing instructor when I am back home in England and I have worked as Bar and Events Staff too. I’m passionate about history and politics, particularly focusing on the Middle East and well as travelling and undertaking challenges outside of my comfort zone. At secondary school, I did a lot of volunteering, especially for our school’s Amnesty International club giving presentations and raising awareness and supplies for the Syrian Refugee crisis in Europe. I recently hitchhiked to Paris to raise money with my university.

Why did you join Youth Employment UK as a Youth Ambassador?

The thing I love the most is Youth Employment UK’s role as a platform for young people to express themselves and means young people can learn from the experiences of their peers. Additionally, it provides invaluable information about how you can maximise your chances for employment. Youth Employment UK helps young people with employment, something that concerns me greatly and being an ambassador was a way I felt I could contribute positively to society.

What have you been involved with so far?

I have only just joined as an ambassador and so far conducted an interview about BTECs which has been published. I am currently writing up some more interviews and articles which I have planned.

How has being a Youth Ambassador helped you?

It has increased my confidence, making me feel like I have a voice and a platform to express this voice upon. It has motivated me to start conducting and writing up interviews about matters that I considered important but hadn’t explored fully before. I think it has given me a sense of purpose in my thoughts about education and the opportunity to pursue these ideas.

Would you recommend others to become a Youth Ambassador? Why?

If you believe youth employment is a pressing concern, becoming a youth ambassador is for you. If you believe education is important and you wish to share your experience, becoming a youth ambassador is for you. If you feel strongly about these, being a youth ambassador will give you a direction to aim your beliefs and ideas.

Can you sum up your experience in one sentence?

It’s an invaluable opportunity to have your voice heard.

Let’s say it louder for the people at the back… what do the people in charge really need to know about youth employment today?

That, despite the ‘snowflake generation’ stereotype, young people are not incapable of holding down demanding jobs. That if you wish to have a strong workforce you must give young people the opportunity to demonstrate their skills, through internships and work experience that is widely accessible. You cannot expect someone with boundless work experience if getting unpaid work experience is difficult in the first place.

And what do you think the people in charge really need to know about education today?

Educate by communicating lessons, not simply facts. A blur of disconnected information is going to at best discarded after an exam – or, worse, never learnt at all.

If you teach about CO2, show the diagram that correlates CO2 with temperature taken from air bubbles in Antartica, and how our biological past can predict the impending climatic future the students will face.

If you teach maths, explain why understanding algebra is important in an age of scientific and mathematical careers.

If you teach Shakespeare, seek to prove that despite this age of science, the raw emotions of humanity are what divide us from the rest of the animal kingdom and the technology we create to mirror ourselves.

If you teach a child art, teach the significance of creativity in a world where so many jobs are becoming automated, and the importance of a human not thinking like a machine.

And finally, if the politicians must decide on how we teach history, I beg they preserve the power and significance of our democracy by teaching young people how tyrants have used propaganda and fake news articles to rise to power and consolidate that power. How dramatic ideas like communism, facism and populism have been tried already in history, sketched on the gravestones of millions.

We need to have a population that learns from the past, and grows positively into the future. We need an education system that teaches creativity and critical analysis, so we can analyse modern day problems, understand them in context, and creatively envision and enact solutions for the future.

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