Lucy Parker, chair of the talent and enterprise task force was in Durham yesterday speaking to delegates at the Northeast Economic Forum about the FutureStory programme.
FutureStory shows how real people on the front-line of globalisation are adapting to and succeeding in the new global economy. Everywhere across the UK today, the work that we do, the way that we live and the places we live in are changing.
FutureStory helps us to see how this change is affecting us, in our towns and cities. The FutureStory of each location brings together a set of case studies of real people in real organisations, who tell us about how they are experiencing that change. Through their words, we can see what the building blocks of success in the global economy are – and where the jobs and industries of the future will come from.
Lucy is the real champion of FutureStory, but what was really good to see at this event was some real young people who have been involved in the project at Prudhoe Community High School, a school located just to the west of Newcastle.
One of the teachers, Tim Smith, talked about the architecture of the school: “We needed to create a new building recently and were initially concerned about how feasible it would be to build on top of an old mine, there is a 10cm seam of coal running under the school field. Eventually it was discovered that there was a section of solid rock allowing the building to be safely constructed. The architects used dark materials so the building looks as if it was created from the coal – shining out into the future.”
The metaphor is appropriate as regions like the northeast have seen traditional industries decimated and many are asking where the new jobs will come from. Technology is one suggestion and Jonny McGuigan, a pupil at the school, had made a short video for the conference.
Unfortunately, the technology fell apart at the conference venue and the film stopped! Jonny was undeterred and spoke to the audience instead, really rolling up his sleeves and telling it as it is for someone less than half the age of most conference delegates: “New media is just media to us… we grew up with it. We don’t need to read an instruction manual. Industry has so many closed doors – I want to be able to get some work experience.”
This was an impressive impromptu speech from someone of just 14-years, standing up in front of the most important business leaders in the northeast and basically telling them that they need to wake up to a changing world and the insights younger people can offer.
Jonny made some interesting final observations that apply to both younger and older: “We shouldn’t underestimate ourselves… we need to explore what we can really do in future. I want to learn, but the door is so often shut – not everyone is the media stereotype of a young person.”
Jonny was like a youthful Chris Evans. In fact, he is already working on community radio projects, so you might hear him berating business leaders on air sometime soon. It should have been a hard act to follow, but another Prudhoe pupil, Mark Churchill, talked about his own experience.
Mark was very insightful about how he sees a problem in schools trying to connect creative and academic functions: “I’m in the sixth form, taking subjects like maths, chemistry, and physics. I could just keep on studying these courses and not thinking about the fact that the courses have probably not changed for decades, but I like painting, and Photoshop, and writing, and other creative activities.”
Mark told the audience how all these other activities were considered to be just a hobby by the school, which focuses naturally on the examination subjects. He showed the conference one of his Photoshop montages, which created an impressive murmur of approval from the audience – until Mark said he just “knocked out that picture quickly last night.” He might want to keep the people more impressed by telling less of the truth now and then!
The important question Mark asked was how he can find a career that combines his abilities in science and technology with his love of art and creativity. That needs mentors and advice from people who have done it and found a path into a career that combines those skills.
And that’s really what FutureStory is all about. Helping young people to see that the future of work is changing and that new opportunities are being created all the time, as well as getting businesses to open their doors to young people who want even more advice than ever before.