For young people standing at the threshold of their adult lives and careers, the right guidance could spell the difference between a successful life and a wasted one.
It was this realisation that prompted employees at the Crowne Plaza London-St James, a Taj property in London, to work with The Prince’s Trust, the UK’s leading youth charity, on their Team programme.
The Prince’s Trust aims to help young people overcome their obstacles and enhance the quality of their lives. Team is a 12-week programme of personal development for young people aged 16-25; young people uncover their hidden talents, build self-esteem and improve their confidence. “They learn how to work closely with others and leave ready to give their lives a kick-start with new skills and qualifications,” says Dawn Thurston, corporate volunteer manager, The Prince’s Trust. The programme offers work experience, qualifications, practical skills and the opportunity to work at community projects.
Young people, aged 16-25, join a 15-member team, consisting of 12 unemployed people and a few employed people who are sponsored by their companies. Participants are usually young offenders, educational underachievers, those in or leaving care and the long-time unemployed.
The programme runs three times a year, with at least 10 employees from the Crowne Plaza London-St James, chosen for their capabilities and expertise, volunteering to deliver valuable one-day workshops around support for work placements, and CV and interview skills.
“Our employees are very enthusiastic about volunteering their time and skills for this programme,” says Hannah Huyton, HR head at 51 Buckingham Gate, who manages this initiative. “It’s actually quite daunting to stand in front of young people, who quite often have negative perceptions towards a corporate job. But our people are ready to share their own experiences so that the youngsters can learn from them. They find it quite rewarding.”
Typically each workshop needs three facilitators who visit in the third and/or ninth weeks. At such meetings, they are encouraged to share their life experiences with the participants and teach them career development skills.
What makes these meetings even more interesting for participants is the fact that they are held at the Crowne Plaza London-St James, with meals being provided to the young people in a full five-star setting. That experience, coupled with the warmth displayed by the staff, touches them positively.
Additionally, employee volunteers share inputs on how to conduct oneself at interviews, what companies look for in potential staff, how to write a good CV and covering letter, and on several other points. They also conduct mock interviews and provide feedback on participants’ CVs and covering letters and their interview performance. A group debriefing session is carried out to highlight both positive and negative areas.
“It’s a great initiative from our hotel and it was a humbling experience for me as an individual to be able to learn and understand the challenges of other individuals,” says Gagan Sharma, front office manager at 51 Buckingham Gate. Adds Edward Riches, hotel manager, Crowne Plaza London-St James: “Even though there were challenges, I was able to see the development of the group that I worked with and the difference that we had made. It was an opportunity to give back and assist those that have had challenges in their lives but were trying to improve themselves.”
The programme teaches the participants valuable work and life skills and enhances their employability. They develop team-working and communication skills, learn to assume responsibility for tasks, discover their own hidden talents and gain nationally recognised qualifications. Along the way, they undertake a project based in their local community, complete a work placement, participate in a team challenge involving caring for others, and stage a team presentation, during which they recount their experiences.
“It’s really about broadening their choices and learning things that they haven’t had the opportunity to do before. Many may never have entered the world of work before or have very little experience of it,” says Ms Thurston. “The workshops give them the chance to speak to employees and understand what goes into making a company successful. They also have the opportunity to interact with people that they may not normally come into contact with. Volunteers come with a wealth of skills and knowledge that participants do not usually have access to.”
The development plan continues beyond the programme. Crowne Plaza London-St James has invited three of the students to come back for work placements.
Participants are surveyed three, six and twelve months after the programme to see how well they have progressed. The success of the programme is such that more than 70 percent of unemployed participants move on to jobs, training or education within three months of completing the programme.
The hotel has been extremely pleased with the results of its commitment to the programme. “When we first met these young people in the first few weeks after they joined The Prince’s Trust, we noticed that they were disillusioned and struggled to find work. But by week nine they had a bounce in their step and were more confident. It was great to see the change,” says Tony Nicholls, director of security at Crowne Plaza London-St James.
The feedback received from the young people has also been very positive and the Trust is keen to continue the relationship. The hotel’s efforts have helped to lift the vision of these young people higher and encouraged them to improve their attitude towards work and life. Above all, The Prince’s Trust programme has put thousands of young people on the road to a better future.