Tell us about your role and organisation
I’m the CEO of the Central YMCA, a charity that is passionate about education and health, and about making sure young people reach their goals.
I oversee 400 employees and 250 volunteers in 22 locations across England and manage five major operations: YMCA Training, YMCAfit, YMCA Awards, YMCA Club and YMCA at One KX.
The YMCA has 60 million members across the globe. England founded the first YMCA back in 1844 – we’ve been around 172 years – and we’ve become the world’s largest youth movement. Our mission statement is to help people live ‘happy, healthy and more fulfilled lives’ and we still stand by that today.
What are your biggest challenges?
In my day job: balancing the demand of all five operations. My goal is to make sure they all work effectively individually, but also a whole entity and not in silos. It’s important that we work as one organisation.
In the bigger picture: Central YMCA’s latest drive is to reach out to young people whose talents haven’t yet flourished, such as young people who have missed out on the traditional opportunities of college and university.
How do you think the next generation and their needs are changing in the future world of work?
The pace of life has been transformed by social media. The globe is always ‘on’ which gives great flexibility and control for people’s life choices, but also has repercussions. I think we’re yet to see how the ‘never switching off' world will impact future talent and society, but it’s already presenting problems such as social judgement and the rise in mental health cases.
Young people have more self doubt than ever before and are facing confidence issues when it comes to work – and they are having trouble believing they are a valuable member of society. These are real workplace and social challenges, and we need to recognise that now.
How is the YMCA helping to fill the youth employment gap?
We must build confidence in our talent, they are the future drivers of our economy. We’re all here because we are invested in the success of young people; employers because we need a pool of talent that will secure our businesses for the future; policy makers, in order to build a stronger society and young people themselves; so that they have a future to look forward to.
For example, the Central YMCA run the ‘Get on Track’ programme for 16-25 year olds in collaboration with the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust; looking for work, training, education or volunteering opportunities. Results have seen 70% of young people move into work or further education within five months of completing the programme.
Why are apprenticeships important?
They offer a great alternative to traditional methods of entering the world of work. Not all young people now want to go to university and they shouldn’t be penalised for that. Keep an open mind and think what a modern apprenticeship and future talent really looks like.
It’s like tackling the YMCA’s ancient triangle – which represents the body, mind and spirit – in the 20th century. It’s now about seeing the whole person as an individual and not just a number in an organisation. Don’t look at apprenticeships as cheap labour; ensure your employer is a true partner in the process.
Great leadership is about leading across and not leading down. You need to have mentors who provide empathy as well as training. Apprenticeships are a brilliant way of learning and gaining new skills and experiences – while developing culture, commitment and loyalty in that young person. It’s a soft launch into working life. Apprenticeships need to be valued more.