Karren Brady

Karren Brady: LifeSkills and inspiring young people

02 December 2016

Baroness Karren Brady is passionate about helping young people reach their potential. As Ambassador for the LifeSkills programme and chair of the LifeSkills Advisory Council, she has met thousands of young people taking their first steps into the world of work – and says she’s inspired by their determination.

“What strikes me is they have a really clear idea about what they want to do with their lives and they feel confident about getting there,” she says. “LifeSkills is all about inspiring young people and equipping them with the skills they need for the world of work, now and in the future.

“I think anything that prepares you to be work-ready and sets your CV apart is really important. If you can show that you’ve invested your own time and effort in a programme like this, it shows you are serious about being employable. That can only be a good thing.”

Be determined. Be enthusiastic. And be ambitious, because without ambition, no one ever started anything.

Karren Brady's advice for young people

Barclays set up the LifeSkills programme in 2013 to help address high levels of youth unemployment, the gap between the skills of school-leavers and graduates and the needs of 21st century business, and an apparent lack of quality careers guidance and work experience in schools.

It aims to tackle youth employability in the round: by inspiring and helping young people to move forward into the 21st century work place by gaining the relevant skills and experience needed; supporting schools, colleges and universities to build their students’ employability; and making sure the needs of businesses for particular skills feed into the approach.

More than 3.1 million young people have already taken part. In addition, 83% of UK secondary schools, 65% of UK further education and agricultural colleges, 38% of universities as well as charities and youth groups and 33,800 educators - have registered so far to use the programme’s tools and resources.
Those who register gain access to more than 60 hours of free curriculum-linked resources including videos, quick-fire activities, interactive tools and full lesson plans on everything from CV writing and interview skills to networking, problem-solving and resilience. Young people and parents can also access the tools directly and learn in their own time.

Baroness Brady – who, as an 18-year-old in her first job, famously sold £2m of radio advertising – hopes the programme will help employers to have more faith in young people. UK businesses have so far made available 29,000 work experience opportunities through LifeSkills.

“Before this programme, there was such a lack of quality work experience for young people and it’s a catch-22 because they need to gain the skills for the world of work to be able to get into the world of work,” she says.

“A lot of businesses worry about what they’ll do with a teenager. But I think they are underestimating young people. There’s something hugely rewarding about helping a young person on the path and giving them advice and inspiration to go and find their way.”

Baroness Brady went straight into the world of work aged 18, bypassing university, and worked at Saatchi & Saatchi, LBC Radio and Sport Newspapers before becoming managing director of Birmingham City Football Club aged 23. Now Vice Chairman of West Ham United she says young people should think carefully about their options.

“I don’t think it’s essential to go to university, but it is essential to have a plan,” she says. “It’s very difficult to leave school and not go on to higher education if you don’t have a plan about what you are going to do with your life and how you’re going to get the skills to do it.

“It’s important to look at the choices because just going to university these days doesn’t mean you will necessarily get into the career you want.”

Does she think the opportunities she had as a non-graduate are open to this generation? “I think if you are a determined person, somehow you will find a way to do something you love,” she says. “It just might take a bit longer.”

Her advice for young people finding their way in the working world? “Be determined. Be enthusiastic. And be ambitious, because without ambition, no one ever started anything.”

Karren Brady (portrait)

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