The Riots, Communities and Victims Panel Report which launched last month suggested that a perceived lack of support and opportunities for young people contributed to the outbreak of the riots last summer.
I believe that everyone in society has a responsibility to support young people and has a contribution to offer in providing opportunities for young people to realise their ambitions. Businesses are not exempt.
Young people have so much to offer our society and, indeed, our businesses. As digital natives, they hold the skills that will help our businesses grow. After all, 10 years ago, who would have predicted that future jobs would have included the social media strategist or the app developer?
As a business, the contribution to support young people needn’t be a daunting one. I am championing businesses to work in close collaboration with youth sector organisations, and imbed their support at the heart of their organisations.
At O2, we’ve been on our own journey. In 2009, stakeholder insight told us that we needed to make a difference with young people. As a powerful youthful brand, we felt we had more to offer, but we didn’t have the expertise to make our ambitions a reality. We therefore developed a partnership with the National Youth Agency and UK Youth, to enable young people to make a difference and develop important skills. And so Think Big was born.
As we’ve seen first hand, there are many business benefits to be had through working with charities and voluntary organisations. The primary impact of course is the difference this makes to young people’s lives. But there are many business benefits too, such as staff motivation and development or a sense of giving something back to the local community – the benefits are tangible.
And I’d encourage other businesses to do the same. Last week I hosted a consultation to launch United Futures, a programme being led by Business in the Community, the National Children’s Bureau and UK Youth. The aim is to break down barriers between businesses and the youth sector and identify what support we can offer to help young people realise their potential. It’s about working together and using our collective clout for a common goal.
As a leading communications company in a digital world, we feel responsible for setting the agenda: to harness a digitally skilled workforce that is fit for the future. We’re just at the start of our journey, but by opening our doors to other businesses, the youth sector and young people, I genuinely believe we can build a lasting partnership that will make a difference.
Ronan Dunne is the chief executive of O2