The Youth Engagement Officer who is helping change the lives of teens just like him
We spoke to Cameron, one of our Youth Engagement Officers, to find out how he helps teens build confidence, gain new skills, and explore employment opportunities.
My motivations for helping young people came from my own personal struggles when I was a child for which I felt I had little guidance or support. My school experience was shaky for many reasons – I was placed in care from age eight and have battled depression and anxiety for most of my life. I tried my best in school, but I soon fell behind my peers. I credit my foster parents as the reason I was able to eventually work through the challenges I faced in school– they gave me the motivation to engage.
I joined Itec as a Youth Engagement Officer in June 2022 to be the mentor that I never had growing up for young people with similar backgrounds to my own. My work involves meeting with learners either at their homes or at Itec centres to build our relationship, monitor their progress, and see if they had any friends who would also benefit from Itec. To raise awareness about the opportunities offered at Itec, I engage with young people within the community at schools, community centres, food banks, and fast-food restaurants.
The lasting effects of the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis has affected many vulnerable young people and heightened their anxiety around their next steps in life. As a result, a lot of these young people are in danger of becoming NEET (not in education, employment, or training).
Jobs Growth Wales+ offers something different to the traditional classroom setting which doesn’t suit everyone’s style of learning. Rather than just sitting behind a desk, learners are able to gain hands-on experience and build up their skills in a workplace environment through apprenticeships, placements, or employment.
I feel that the work I do is important because it gives young people the opportunity to explore their options and access support to help them reach their full potential – something I wish I had when I was a teenager.
The role of Youth Engagement Officers not only increases the recruitment of potential learners but makes positive change from the bottom up. These engagement efforts have made a significant impact within the community with the majority of learner referrals coming in because of personal recommendations from learners themselves or their guardians.
Being positive, relatable, and honest is key when working with young people because lot of them have not had someone that they can trust in their lives. I understand what that feels like so I try my best to be a friendly face that they can turn to for advice or support in times of difficulty.
I often share my own story to show them that we all have problems, but these problems don’t have to hold us back from reaching our full potential. I find it a great way of giving teens inspiration for their own personal growth by framing it from the perspective of someone who understands.
My life experiences have taught me to be empathetic with my approach when engaging with young people. I feel a strong sense of pride when learners achieve their goals whether this be securing a placement or apprenticeship, unlocking confidence, or discovering their passions – this is the most rewarding part of my role as a youth engagement officer at Itec.