What do you want to be when you grow up?
I bet you remember being asked that, on at least one occasion. When we are children we are asked this question excessively. Then we become adults, and still don’t find the perfect answer. Perhaps the answer is evolving, changing as the world does around us.
Your childhood dreams may have been of being the next Ronaldo, Spice Girl, a doctor or teacher. The reason that we give this answer is because it’s what we see, what we know, watched on TV or who we’ve interacted with.
Without representation and positive role models, many children don’t know what’s possible for them. Only one in eight children from a low-income background is likely to become a high earner as an adult. Having access to people outside of your immediate background can fling open doors and possibilities you never knew existed.
Representation is now accepted and a well-trodden route to understanding barriers to employment. However, for children, ambition simply isn’t enough. We also need the knowledge, tools and network to navigate our way to our dreams.
Our children and young people need social and emotional skills. That’s right, soft skills. Experience and academic attributes are important, but soft skills are the key to unlocking this potential. Confidence, resilience, tools to manage feelings, communication and curiosity.
A lack of ambition is limiting, but so is the world of work when expectations collide between young person and employer. In a recent study 54 per cent of employers identified a lack of soft skills, such as communication and team working in young people.
When young people come knocking on the door, organisations have to invest a huge amount to get young people to the level required to work effectively. They are ambitious and qualified but can’t quite 'get on'.
Soft skills like these are not taught in school. With classroom sizes at their maximum and parents often working longer hours to keep the lights on, it is hard to make time for the chit chat around a dinner table or squeeze in a bedtime story.
One-to-one interactions are crucial for building these skills. Children and young people need to feel important, like their voice matters and that they can try new things, and even if they fail, they can pick themselves up again and have another go.
For businesses, this translates into confidence, problem solving and resilience - skills vital for the workplace, and let’s face it, navigating the world.
Soft skills are built over time, through hundreds of minute actions in unremarkable situations. True confidence and resilience is complex and can be difficult to maintain during competitive job hunts.
At The Kids Network we support disadvantaged children by connecting them with a volunteer mentor, a young professional, who works with them on a one to one basis over the course of a year.
We start early, working with primary aged school children because we know the power of early intervention and the impact that can have.
Through weekly sessions children build confidence, resilience and communication skills by challenging their growth and sharing power in a fun and activity led way. We provide them with a new network, to show them what is possible.
We believe every child should have access to diverse role models and the opportunity to grow fully as a person, to be interested in the world and to have the ability to know themselves.
If you want to get involved as a mentor you can visit The Kids Network website and apply for the next cohort of volunteers.