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Zephaniah calls for ‘alternative routes to employment'

PASSIONATE: Benjamin Zephaniah

BENJAMIN ZEPHANIAH has given his view on the lack of routes into employment for young people. The Brunel University professor is a patron of Tower Hamlets youth charity Futureversity, who along with Network Housing Group (NHG) are behind the Job Ready Programme – a scheme for 16-25 year olds who are not in education, employment or training (NEET).

Futureversity and NHG’s Job Ready Programme will teach students about interview techniques, how to write the perfect CV and cover letter, and will allow them to gain an insight into a range of professions in order to make informed decisions on their career direction.

They will also have the opportunity to spend time with older people from NHG housing schemes who can share the stories of their youth with them. Students will also receive a two week work placement within Network Housing Group.

As a patron, Zephaniah may be able empathise with the youngsters as someone who left full time education himself at the age of 13, unable to read or write.

The playwright, poet and author said: “The great thing about Futureversity and the Job Ready Programme is that it’s very practical. It focuses on what the students can do, whether that’s music or journalism or photography – I think one of the problems is that society is so driven by different groups who keep saying everyone has to go to university.

”I am a university professor, and I am passionate about higher education and getting the most out of our young people – but not everyone has to go to university. We must develop alternative routes to employment. I have a friend who can’t read and write, but if you put him under the bonnet of a car he can get on and do the job beautifully, because he’s very practical and hands on.”

In May of this year, Futureversity carried out a study with young people with the majority (60 per cent) stating that they felt doors were closed when looking for jobs. 53 per cent said that they could not afford to go to university, and many (63 per cent) said that they will not achieve their career ambitions.

Lola Ahonkhai, Job Ready Manager, said she hoped the interaction with the older generation would push young people forward when it comes to finding their own career path.

She said: “The residents from NHG have fascinating stories to tell our students and it’s my belief that hearing these stories will spur them on to develop their own career, so that they in turn will have similar stories to tell their grandchildren, or the next generation of Futureversity students in 50 years’ time.”

Zephaniah added: “Futureversity gives people hope. There are a lot of young people out there who really want to make something of their lives and Futureversity allows them to see that there are things out there for them.

“I’m proud to be a patron of this charity and hope that as many youngsters throughout the city will be encouraged by what it offers as I am.”

Futureversity patrons include two of its former students, music artist Dizzee Rascal and co-founder MP Rushanara Ali and film director Danny Boyle who orchestrated the recent London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony.

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