The initiative has been designed to help raise young people’s aspirations and increase their awareness of the breadth of opportunities available in the world of work. It will also be a platform for the community to celebrate their local talent, whilst presenting pathways to develop new skills or access information on further education and training.
The latest data  shows that around 10% of 16-18 year olds are NEET (not in education, employment or training). Many young people are lacking encouragement and aspiration, which has become worse as unemployment has risen during the recession. Shopping centres lie at the heart of communities, and are ideally located as a hub through which to engage with young people in their leisure time. Talent Week has been developed over the last 18 months by BCSC, along with Department of Children Schools and Families (DCSF), Business in The Community (BITC) and Edge, an independent education foundation.
BCSC is encouraging its extensive membership of shopping centre owners and managers to get involved, and some of its biggest landlords have already agreed to support national Talent Week in October including: Hammerson, Grosvenor, Prupim and Lendlease with more in the pipeline. Successful pilots have already taken place at Brent Cross in London, Liverpool One in Liverpool, Hempstead Valley in Gillingham, Meadowhall in Sheffield, Kingdom Shopping Centre in Glenrothes, Burnley Town Centre and Manchester Arndale.
During Talent Week itself, shopping centres will stage a series of events open to young people in their communities. The events will bring together a number of partners and businesses which will showcase subjects such as creative media, health and beauty, science, retail, music, sport and engineering. Local colleges, careers guidance and apprenticeships will be there to offer advice on gaining the right qualifications and the best courses on offer. Companies taking part include: National Skills Academy for Retail, National Enterprise Service, Ignite, Streets United and the Army.
BCSC Chief Executive Michael Green comments: “We have always been committed to raising skills standards in the retail property industry, and the Talent Week programme is a natural extension of this. Now more than ever, young people need to recognise their talents and apply them to the workplace and Talent Week is an opportunity for the next generation to think about their aspirations and future career path. “Talent Week offers a practical example of how shopping centres can broaden their engagement with local communities, creating a focal hub that recognises and facilitates the development of skills and talents of young people in a fun and inspiring way.”
Leesa Ingham, BCSC Project Director for Talent Week comments, “we have been delighted by the response from the shopping centre industry as well as promotional partners that want to be part of the project. Talent Week provides a fantastic opportunity for businesses and organisations that have been tasked with reaching out to young people to promote key subjects and attract talent to those sectors. Mall space is provided free of charge by the shopping centres and the event will be promoted in local schools and within the community.”
Tom Nathan, General Manager at Brent Cross, London and Highcross, Leicester comments: ”We ran one of the pilot projects in October last year, and following its success have committed to having Talent Week in both Brent Cross, London and Highcross, Leicester in October. We believe it provides a unique opportunity to work with our local authority to help raise aspirations of young people in our communities and compliments many of our community engagement projects.”
Nick Walkley, Chief Executive for Barnet Council comments: ”Our commitment to raising skills and aspirations amongst young people within our Borough is extremely important. Too often we find young people don’t believe they have talent and therefore lack ambition to do more and be more. We have partnered with Brent Cross Shopping Centre to engage with the young people in our community and deliver a fantastic Talent Week, which will inspire and motivate them to achieve their potential.”
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