Patrick Cantellow BEM, aged 21 (at the time of writing), from Kent is a #youthvoice champion and ambassador for careers, apprenticeships and social action. Since this interview Patrick has been honoured in the Queens Platinum Birthday Honours 2022 with a BEM for his volunteering can campaign work for youth employment). At the age of 15 Patrick formed the now completed ‘Swale Young People’ project, which offered a voice to young people and high quality work experience and social action opportunities to young people in Swale, using the network Patrick built with his own volunteering work with the NSPCC, The Children’s Commissioner for England and #iwill. Aged 16, the organisation formed as a C.I.C. and received funding from Comic Relief, DCMS and the local devolved councils. Patrick was awarded the Points of Light award by then Prime Minister Theresa May for his work changing the lives of Swale Young People’s beneficiaries. In 2020, in addition to his role as Chair or the Youth Ambassador Board at Youth Employment UK, Patrick was appointed a Non-Executive Director servicing alongside CEO, Laura-Jane Rawlings, where he has also been campaigning for young apprenticeships as an Ambassador since 2015.
What motivated you to first get into the world of youth participation and social action?
At secondary school I always went round “selling” comic relief stickers for donations, usually raising £100 in a week, which looking back I think was even more of a feat given the stickers could be ordered for free and everyone was giving me 1p!
When I was 14, I volunteered with the NSPCC at their ‘invaders day’ which was a day work experience. I found myself presenting to a group of potential ChildLine volunteers. It was here where I caught the social action bug. I went on to volunteer with the NSPCC for quite a few years, whilst also supporting The Children’s Commissioner for England, #iwill and NCB amongst others.
After getting an Apprenticeship myself, I realised how much potential it offered young people which I had ignorantly ignored up until that point. Since then, I have been working with Youth Employment UK to share the message of Apprenticeships and the benefits they offer.
Who have you been inspired by and why?
Without a shadow of doubt, I am most inspired by the fellow young people, and adults, that I have got to meet over the past six years, and those I work with now. From the resilience and empowering stories at the NSPCC, to the young people more in-touch with their communities than their own MPs, at #iwill campaign.
What are your top five campaign/or priority issues for change?
1/ Social mobility is a huge problem in this country. We are ignorant of the challenge’s others face because of the colour of their skin to where they live in the UK, to name just two examples. We need continued commitment from Government, businesses, and individuals to do what we can to improve social mobility.
2/ Social media is causing unhealthy habits in our young society, from cyber-bulling to youth loneliness. I struggle to propose a solution to reduce the time young people and children spend on social media, but what can we do to make it a safer place?
3/ The future for young people during a global recession. The Government has acknowledged young people will be the hardest hit and is trying to help with the recent announcements made in the summer statement. But apologies to sound like a broken record, more is to be done – from careers education to the lack of employability skills employers face.
4/ James, we know that young people are quite articulate in explaining how to fix problems and letting people know about them in the first place, but the “lack of life experience” often means our views are dismissed. Bring on votes at 16, let’s keep the momentum on young people in governance, and focus on empowering the next generation.
5/ Climate emergency – it would be nice to have a future we can work towards to fix all the problems above.
What are your hopes for the new normal post-Covid?
Let us use this as an opportunity to “reset” some of the areas that need sorting above.
If you were visiting or assessing an organisations youthvoice friendliness – what would you be looking for?
Some of the things Swale Young People looked for was:
- – Tone of voice and language – is it appropriate for young people
- – Do they understand that a young person might not know how to manage a phone call from a customer or prospective client? Do they have time to train them on this?
- – Are they offering a “decent” experience? Will the young person learn something new? Do they understand the benefit a young person will bring?
Youth Employment UK has the Youth Friendly Employer Mark to recognise employers who commit to young people. https://www.youthemployment.org.uk/youth-employment-experts/
This interview is the fifth in the Power of Youth series commissioned in response to the #iwill challenge Power of Youth Campaign and are part of our demonstration project – #YouthVoiceNow