On the 18th of December 2017, we attended the APPG (All-Party Parliamentary Group) on Youth Employment meeting. The group is a regular forum for discussing youth employment issues with interested parties in government, business, and the third sector. The APPG is chaired by Michael Tomlinson, MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole, with support from Youth Employment UK.

Anne Milton, Apprenticeships & Skills Minister, joined the meeting to update the group on the work being done by the Department for Education in the skills area and to listen to the experience of young people trying to enter the labour market. Among the youth ambassadors who addressed the minister was Ayodeji  (Joshua) Ogunleye, representing Talent Match London.

Talent Match London is an employability programme, which is primarily delivered by London Youth. The programme uses a partnership model, which allows community organisations and businesses to test innovative youth-led solutions to unemployment and to share learning for social impact in London.

Ayodeji gave a compelling account of his experiences growing up in London and finding his way into a career (a video of his talk can be found here). He was particularly honest about his own mental health journey, providing a powerful example of both how mental health can affect young people’s employability and how their employability affects their mental health.

Growing up first in Hackney and then in Canning Town, Ayodeji experienced racism and dislocation, both directly and through his family. This affected his self-esteem and he went through depression and behavioural issues in secondary school, eventually leaving without any GCSEs. However, Ayodeji knew that he was bright and felt he had let down his teachers and family. He was frustrated that he couldn’t see a way forward.

Fortunately, Ayodeji had a good friend a little older than him, who suggested he take a foundation course at Tower Hamlets College. Ayodeji enrolled on an art course, but quickly changed to business. He did well and was encouraged to skip from level 1 to level 3. He graduated with a BTEC in Business and went on to the University of Greenwich where he gained a BA in Creative Writing.

After struggling to find work in the business world and worrying about falling behind, Ayodeji engaged with Community Links and Talent Match London, who supported him to pursue his ambitions. He now works in property negotiation and has ambitions to be a motivational speaker.

“Talent Match London helped me build on the intangible skills and the soft skills that are necessary…”

Ayodeji with Skills Minister Anne Milton MP

Ayodeji had a chance to ask Anne Milton this question, based on his own experiences: “What more can be done to help people at a younger age to seek advice and engage with stakeholders, like Talent Match London, that can help them unlock answers to the questions that they have regarding career paths and dealing with psychological issues that they may have?”

Anne Milton noted the importance of Ayodeji’s story. She said that it may feel to him like he got out of a trap of seemingly limited opportunities and low mental health by chance. She said that it was important for government to have a system to lift up young people in the same situation, particularly those hidden young people who wrongly feel worthless.

Through Talent Match London and our other programmes, London Youth is committed to giving young people a chance to use their voice on the issues that affect them most.