The North East has had higher rates of unemployment and economic inactivity than England as a whole for over two decades, and a notable increase has been seen over the years 2010-2012. In 2011 alone youth unemployment rose by 120% in the region, and the worst affected areas have seen increases of well over 200% according to The Commission on Youth Unemployment. The commission estimated at least 25% of young people are not in employment, education or training (NEET) in the North East, highlighting a serious need for vocational training for NEET youth. Along with this comes a series of problems, notably a loss of hope, disengagement, low self-confidence and a lack of many generic skills this programme addresses. great northern youth voices was a citizen journalism project that aimed to get NEET youth in the North East heard through the documentaries made. It increased participants’ employability by building confidence and developing skills. These include communication skills (speaking, listening, reading and writing skills, interview techniques); Information Communication Technology (finding, developing and presenting information); working with others (team work is an essential element of the project, supporting development of interpersonal skills through working cooperatively with others to achieve shared objectives); improving own learning and performance through target-setting, planning, learning, communicating own needs and accepting constructive feedback; and technical skills related to film-making.
Previous to this project The Great Debate had been organizing documentary-making workshops for young people for two years, through the pilot project of which this was an extension (the Big Lottery-funded documentary-making project for NEET youth great northern youth voices which ended March 2012), through NECTER’s HYPODS project, through its schools programme, and by supporting projects run by other community organisations. There is evidence that the type of skills training proposed, with its focus away from the academic, is a good way to attract NEET youth. The original great northern youth voices was oversubscribed, reaching 148 young people, proving that there was significant demand and showing the effectiveness of attracting young people to engage with a variety of creative and discursive activities. There were a number of local organisations and projects keen to feed young people into this project, including Newcastle and Gateshead councils, the Skills Progression and Re-engagement Consortium (SPARC) in Gateshead, North East Centre for Transformative Education and Research (NECTER) and Great North Festival. A number of schools with which The Great Debate works also indicated that they were keen to recommend young school leavers mid-2013.
Starting in January 2014, The Great Debate resumed great northern youth voices, funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s Awards for All programme. It is a project for the YouTube generation focused on giving a voice to young people. The project provided a unique educational framework by involving participants in filming public debates and in interviewing academics, activists, politicians, university students and the public. Participants were encouraged to formulate their own thoughts social and environmental issues through exposure to expert and lay opinion and knowledge. Critical reflection on what part their generation may play in ensuring a better future was a key element of the process. A series of documentaries was produced by the participants and published online.
Visit our Vimeo Channel: https://vimeo.com/channels/greatnorthernyouthvoices
Project website: http://thegreatdebate.org.uk/YouthVoices.html
Project Report 2014
The project is now complete. 34 people directly benefited from the Awards for All grant plus several organisations notably partners NECTER/RCE North East, Great North Festival and the Universities of Newcastle, Northumbria and Durham. 10 documentary-making workshops and 3 edit workshops were delivered and in addition participants were involved in filming a variety of public events organised by The Great Debate.
Using a variety of learning styles and working as a documentary learning crew, participants developed media literacy and functional, communication and organisation skills through practical documentary-making training and experience. They were exposed to a variety of ideas and issues including freedom, agency, ‘the wonders of engineering’ and the use of brownfield spaces. Filming events gave them the opportunity to work in a professional environment, interviewing ‘expert witnesses’ and members of the public and local community.
Participants have used this experience to generate new CVs highlighting their roles and responsibilities which they have used to obtain further experience and work.
Filming and interview tasks are posted on the Internet and form a body of work that is accessible to the group and the wider public (see https://vimeo.com/channels/greatnorthernyouthvoices).
The work forms an educational resource that is further linked to community and education sites that support open public networks and inclusive participation.
The project has enabled The Great Debate and NECTER to expand its engagement with young people’s ‘into work’ support and progression networks and is part of a collaborative bid to develop a NEET Network UK Project, lead by Durham University in partnership with local FE Colleges.