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Careers education young people Youth social action toolkit #iwill #iwillweekI remember as a Secondary school teacher working with rural community in Buxton, the sense of satisfaction that pupils took from taking part in activities such as volunteering in care homes – beyond the school gates. 

It gave them a sense of purpose and helped the local community. What I didn’t realise then was that they were taking part in what is termed Youth Social Action (YSA); an umbrella term for activities such as volunteering, campaigning, fundraising, taking action on the environment, and supporting vulnerable people in the community.

As a careers leader, you may have witnessed some of these activities happening in your school and wondered where they fit into the big picture of careers education, if so our toolkit can help you ensure YSA contributes to improving careers education and meeting the Gatsby Benchmarks.

During my time as a geography teacher some of my pupils raised money for causes they were passionate about. Others spent an hour each week reading to residents in the care home next door. Some pupils decided to run a campaign to encourage teachers to switch their computers off at the end of the day – and the same is the case in schools across the country and has been for decades.

60% of young people aged 10-15 take part in some form of social action each year, and 42% of all young people have taken part in YSA that meets the #iwill campaign’s definition of “meaningful” social action. Youth Social Action is therefore nothing new.

However, all of these activities give pupils opportunities to develop in a number of ways, some of which directly overlap with careers education, and the fact that so many pupils take part is a real credit to the teachers who facilitate opportunities.

Encouragingly, YSA appears to be on the rise. Details from the, as yet unpublished, NFER #iwill Teacher Voice Survey 2016-18 show a rise in the proportion of secondary schools in which teachers state that over half of their pupils take part in YSA from 13% of schools in 2016 to 26% in 2018.

The growth in participation in YSA in schools means that more young people, especially those from lower-income backgrounds, are having opportunities to take part in activities that amongst other benefits, develop skills and attributes that employers value. Importantly, as part of YSA, many young people have multiple direct interactions with employers and workplaces, feeding directly into the Gatsby benchmarks.

However, despite the apparent natural marriage between YSA and careers, as well as the many links to the Gatsby benchmarks, many schools and colleges do not recognise the links.

Three ways the toolkit can help you

The Careers & Enterprise Company and #iwill’s ‘Youth Social Action Toolkit’ will therefore help careers leaders like you to augment and enrich your school or college’s careers provision using YSA by helping you:


  1. Find out what YSA is already happening in your setting, and how this existing activity might fit into your careers education.

The ‘survey tool’ in this toolkit can help you map out what is already happening in your setting and decide about how you might move forward. For example by asking:

- Are young people taking part in YSA in partnership with a local employer?

- Are they developing skills such as teamwork or communication that might be useful in the workplace?

- Have they people followed their own interests and are they taking part in YSA that is personalised to their needs as a result?


  1. Extend the range of opportunities young people have to interact with employers and workplaces in your setting. We know that both young people and teachers have social, environmental and political causes that they care deeply about. This toolkit is an opportunity to help teachers run YSA on causes that their students (and they) believe in. Our ‘examples’ show you at-a-glance the range of activities that your school or college might consider. Meanwhile our case studies show you in detail how other schools, colleges and employers have facilitated YSA. They also contain resources to make your life easier, such as the safeguarding and parental consent forms that other settings have used.


  1. Guide the young people you work with to reflect on their experiences. Reflection is a vital component of both YSA and work experiences. Consider:

- Are young people able to recognise how they have developed?

- Can they articulate their development in ways that are useful for CVs, personal statements or interviews?

- Can they identify areas where they could develop further in future?

The toolkit will help you ensure young people are able to reflect on their youth social action, and how their experiences might help them in the workplace.


We hope that Careers Leaders in schools and colleges will find the toolkit helpful. Please take some time to visit the Youth Social Action website, watch the short films about the impact of YSA and download any resources that you think might support the careers provision in your setting.