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My Story - An Apprenticeship with Ambition

Posted By Test Ing., 23 May 2017

I’m Christian, I’m 20 and I am doing a Level 4 Business Administration Apprenticeship, working at Ambition, with training through Creative Pioneers.

My role as a Community & Partnerships Apprentice is to collect and analyse communications data, update and maintain information in the customer relationship database, help organise events, use social/digital platforms to engage with stakeholders and provide general administrative support.

Although I only started on 24th April 2017, I have faced a variety of challenges including preparation for the recent Creative Collisions conference on 3rd May 2017 (including getting up at 5am!).

I, like many young people, attended university for a couple of years and decided to withdraw from my studies in May 2016 because I was not performing well in exams, which have never been my cup of tea. After a short rollercoaster ride to where I am today, including being diagnosed with a mental illness, I decided to consider an apprenticeship and given the fact that the secondary school I attended was very university driven, I didn’t have much of an idea where to start.

With support from my family and friends, I found an apprenticeship that I thought was right for me, with Ambition. I applied online and a couple of days after I was invited to an interview to meet my current line manager Lucy and the Head of Communications, Nadia. A couple of days later I was offered the role I am currently in today.

The Value of Apprenticeships

So, are apprenticeships a success story in the making? At Creative Collisions, Emma Revie, CEO of Ambition, chaired a debate about apprenticeships joined by sector professionals Rathbone, the National Youth Agency, Ingeus, Wakefield County Council and the Chartered Management Institute.

Within the audience, there were a variety of people from different backgrounds, including current apprentices, businesses considering taking on apprentices and organisations already offering apprenticeship opportunities. In terms of the comparison between the apprenticeship and university route, there is the possibility to do a degree level apprenticeship with the main benefit being you come out without a single penny of student debt because, in most cases, the employer pays for the course.

During the debate, many benefits of apprenticeships were outlined including the ability to ‘earn while you learn’ and develop interpersonal skills.

Today, there is a lot of pressure on young people to decide their future as soon as they finish their studies and it’s clear that apprenticeships give you the chance to get valuable work experience which is highly regarded by employers, without saddling you with thousands of pounds of debt, for those choosing the university route.

Looking Ahead

Along with my experience at Ambition and gaining a Level 4 Business Administration qualification, I am hoping to better my team working skills as well as personal skills such as organisation and networking. I hope to attend more conferences and events during my time with Ambition like Creative Collisions, because I enjoyed the experience of meeting new people and looking at apprenticeships from a variety of perspectives.

Tags:  Ambition  Apprenticeships  Creative Collisions  Young people 

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The role of the Youth Sector and VCS in Supporting Young People’s Health

Posted By Barry Williams , 03 March 2017
Updated: 06 April 2017

In November I briefly wrote about the work of Young People Cornwall (YPC), how youth participation is central to all they do and the positive impact investing in youth voice has been to the success of the organisation, even in the tough economic climate in which we are all operating. YPC are a testament to user-designed services, which are universally recognised by organisations across the globe as essential to successfully launching, marketing and popularising products and services (1). So in youth health week it is only fitting to recognise the work health agencies and clinical groups are doing in partnership with young people to ensure services are fit for purpose.

Designing health services for young people is most effective when agencies work with colleagues who specialise in youth participation. As with YPC, the organisations that support such work are from the youth sector and in many cases are voluntary sector organisations. Without the investment from these organisations, youth participation would have little or no infrastructure to support the process, therefore, reducing the impact on the agencies and young people engaging in the activity.

Effective and meaningful youth participation has one of three attributes: it can be consultative; it can entail youth-led participation, where young people have a direct impact on decision-making within their own youth communities; and finally, it can involve youth collaborative participation, where young people effectively take part in regular decision-making processes (2), empowering them to support the development of effective provision.

The benefits to health agencies are multiple, for example, services are more appropriately constructed, communicated and delivered making them more accessible to young people. The added value is that young people emerge more skilled, better connected and ready to become active, productive members of society (3).

The valuable partnership of health agencies, youth sector organisations and young people should be celebrated. It has helped raise awareness of issues, highlighted problems with current services and helped to improve accessibility and appropriateness of services. The sector should be proud of how it continues to invest in youth participation and persist in its advocacy of involving young people in the decision-making process whether within health services, democracy or social action.

Related Reading:

  1. Customer Experience Is the Future of Design
  2. Youth, political participation and decision-making
  3. Youth-led social change: Topics, engagement types, organizational types, strategies, and impacts

Tags:  Ambition  Health  Young people  Young People Cornwall  Young People's Health  Young People's Health Partnership  Youth services  Youth work 

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Ambition 2016, Supporting Young People’s Health, Wellbeing and Relationships

Posted By Barry Williams , 23 November 2016
Updated: 07 April 2017
Ambition 2016 was a great success. The event was further confirmation to me of the growing feeling that as a sector we are readying ourselves to unite and to learn from each other’s experiences, face issues head on and celebrate progress.

The conference gave a platform to a wide range of experts speaking on diverse subjects from mental health, to CSE/A, to preventing exploitation of vulnerable young people, to how we might expand opportunities for young people to increase their physical activity, among many more. We are indebted to our partners who provided their time and expertise so we could deliver such a high quality programme.

The conference theme and programme was devised to instigate discussions on how we might contribute to supporting the sector in designing and building effective, contemporary services which support young people experiencing unprecedented change, challenges and pressures. I have every confidence the answers lie in organisations and agencies like those within the Ambition community. Our role, at Ambition, is to provide a platform for those discussions to take place, to help establish the foundations of how these new services could be implemented and to promote, with sector partners, the impact of those services.

What struck me was the positive determination participants conveyed in improving young people’s life chances; this was imparted through the seminar discussions, panel questions and statements throughout the two-day conference. As a consequence, it has provided our team with a plethora of undertakings to consider and follow through and even, in some cases, problems to deal with.

In his outgoing Chair speech, Selwyn Hodge encouraged those in the room and from the wider sector to be open to pushing boundaries and not to be frightened of challenges in the short-term to secure long-term success. Selwyn went on to surmise that as a sector we are entering unknown territory and leaders of organisations would need to work collectively to secure a quality, consistent, relevant, local offer to support the nation’s young people through a challenging period for them in the UK.

Selwyn’s words came days before the launch of the State of the Nation report on social mobility in Great Britain was published, outlining evidence of the multi-faceted challenges young people face growing up in the UK today; issues those of us working with young people are only too aware.

Having spoken to many of you who attended the conference, the work we offer as a network of organisations and agencies continues to be well received and respected by partners, communities, parents and most importantly, young people. There is concern about the effect of Brexit and the impact of the ongoing cuts to services and resources. However, it was evident that the work you are doing continues to be valued by young people and the innovation and nimbleness in which members operate leaves me with no doubt that colleagues will strive to find more sustainable resources to continue to deliver those services.

One particular conversation I had with colleagues from Young People Cornwall (YPC) stuck with me, YPC have always had young people’s views and involvement at the core to organisational and service development, it’s fundamental to how they operate. For YPC, historically it has been difficult to secure external resource to fully support this work, however, it is so critical to how they operate they have chosen to invest the organisation’s funds to ensure the work continues. As you can imagine this has not always been easy but even when resource was stretched they continued to be committed to this policy. However, YPC’s commitment to this approach has started to pay off as partners, funders and communities are recognising YPC’s policy as not only more effective for the beneficiaries but also more cost effective.

This account reminds me that it takes leadership and a strong sense of purpose for an organisation to stick to its mission, in the face of financial pressures and there is a finely tuned balance between the social impact that the organisation is trying to achieve, and how much money it needs to sustain itself.

I hope those who attended Ambition 2016 left feeling as enthused as our team did and the conference has gone some way to starting conversations on how, as a community, we can work together and with young people, to create a local offer that is consistent, effective and of high quality.

Tags:  Ambition  Ambition 2016  Ambition conference  FundingYouth work  Young people  Youth services 

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Children’s Commissioner’s Launch of Ambitious for Children

Posted By Nadia Alomar, 22 July 2016
Updated: 07 April 2017
“Listen, Listen, Listen!” A phrase which rang through my head during the Children’s Commissioner’s first year launch of Ambitious for Children on 12 July 2016. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a note to self. Quite the contrary, it was one of the most important messages I took away that day.

The event started with Michael Buchanan, BBC’s social affairs correspondent, who did a marvellous job of chairing the panel. Unsurprisingly, his opening remarks were on the government’s current state of affairs and despite its fluctuating and inconsistent nature – for children, “life goes on.” Buchanan stressed the importance of working consistently to overcome the challenge of merging policy with personal (care, compassion, understanding and empathy) to improve the lives of young people.

Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield then took to the stage to mark the beginning of the first year of Ambitious for Children. Twelve months ago, priorities were set for the next five years, and Longfield explained how this will feed into programmes and activities for the year ahead. It seemed clear that Longfield listened, kept an open door policy and relied on feedback from children and young people.

A main priority for the Children’s Commissioner was to improve outcomes for children in care and particularly those not on any policy radar. She is working to provide stability to children (a leading theme), minimising the number of and disruption caused by placement moves, and improving therapeutic care. She wanted to instil stability in all relationships by improving communication with their social workers, which forms the basis of a collaborative project with children and young people.

Listening to children and young people was highlighted by Alex Burghart, the Children’s Commissioner’s Director of Strategy – after all children are, “experts on their lives and the system.” He introduced the Stability Index, to be launched later in the year, as a tool to help overcome instability in children and young people in care, aiming to “look at the lives behind the statistics.” With the unique power to access data from any public source surrounding children, including central and local government, it will enable the Commissioner’s office to understand the situation as well as help local authorities learn from each other to refine their systems.

Dame Louise Casey provided the reality check. She called the treatment and targeting of children, “a cause for national shame.” Difficult to argue with given some of the data presented on the day. She highlighted last year’s unemployment rate provided the reality check. She called the treatment and targeting of children, “a cause for national shame.” Difficult to argue with given some of the data presented on the day. She highlighted last year’s for young black people aged 16-24 at 27.5% – higher than any other ethnic background, and urged authorities to, “face the facts and tell it like it is.” She made the point that whilst we are divided on the country’s fate, the “country is not divided on the future of our children,” and we need to work together to improve lives.

The NHS lead on the Barnahus model of child protection, Hong Tan, discussed the priorities for children in the coming year. Barnahus in Reykjavik was given as a model example of a safe house for children. Looking at the difference in populations (Reykjavik’s over 120,000 versus London’s over 8.6 million), he shared the shocking fact that the Barnahus and The Children and Young People Haven in King’s College Hospital London housed a similar number of children. Tan explained that the locals’ knowledge of the Barnahus created a level of, “social responsibility within the community,” which we must work towards for London.

Then the moment we listened just that bit harder. Young people from Oldham and Ealing stole the show, and rightly so.

We were presented with a Passport to Independent Living by the young people from Oldham District Youth Forum. A project aimed at preparing young care leavers for independent living. It details services available to them and helps with issues from healthcare to opening a bank account. Young people from Ealing’s Junior Council worked on a project for children in care, including activities which provided information and gifts, and giving children a wall board to communicate their needs and wants.

It struck me how proud both groups were to have a voice and an audience that listened. Young people are trying to make a difference to their future and they need to believe adults care enough to listen and do something about it.

“Listen!” It’s something that was drummed into our heads as children and something we continue to drum into our children’s heads. So when do we stop listening? And why? Well, that’s a discussion for another time. For now, let’s take it on board and accept it as the first step to solving the problem.

I left the event hopeful that the Children’s Commissioner listens to children and young people, is on the road to better understanding their plight, and is applying that knowledge to improving their life chances.

Tags:  Ambition  Anne Longfield  Children's Commissioner  Government  Young people  Youth services 

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A call for your perspective on Brexit

Posted By Barry Williams , 05 July 2016
Updated: 07 April 2017
The impact of the result nearly two weeks on is starting to materialise. As you will be well aware the prominent issues in the media include the most significant political upheaval in a generation, social divisions and economic uncertainty.

So – what does that mean for us, the sector and the members we work with?

The slowing down of government business such as the Youth Justice Review is an outcome of the political turmoil resulting from Brexit. This impacts on our work through the probable delays in policy and the need to develop new relationships with Ministers after the inevitable Cabinet reshuffle, once the leadership contest has run its course.

The economy is in an uncertain position and that makes the markets nervous, which could result in a recession, impacting on government revenues, investments for grant-making foundations and future donor contributions to charities. This on top of the long-term impact of a reduction in our ability to access European funding could put increasing pressure on our sector and the young people we support. However, the one bit of positive news since the result has been the Chancellor’s announcement abandoning his economic target of balancing the books by 2020, which could reduce the need for further cuts to public spending.

The social divisions which have been reported in the media concern me most though, we will not accept racist and xenophobic attacks as a consequence of the Brexit vote and we should work together to ensure our communities are welcoming to all. There is also a generational split within communities where young people are reported to have voted overwhelmingly to remain compared to the over-65s of whom 60% voted to leave.

It is my belief as a sector we have a duty to lead beyond our own organisations to come together to work for the social good of all our beneficiaries. How do we ensure improving services continue to be provided for young people and how does Ambition play its part alongside its partners in the sector to support those members who enable this to happen?

We would like to hear from you; what are your concerns, challenges and opportunities as a consequence of the referendum? Has there already been an impact on your organisation and the young people being supported by your services? How can Ambition and/or our sector partners assist your organisation and young people to ensure the impact of Brexit will not affect their life chances? Please email us at:

Based on your responses, we propose working with our partners in the sector to co-ordinate opportunities to share members’ thoughts and experiences as a result of the Brexit vote.

We look forward to hearing or reading members’ and young people’s perspectives of the potential impact of Brexit over the next few months.

Tags:  Ambition  Brexit  Civil Society  Erasmus+  Funding  Government  Rob Wilson  Young people  Youth work 

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Brexit – what does this mean for our members?

Posted By Barry Williams , 27 June 2016
Updated: 07 April 2017
It has been interesting and a little surprising listening to the fallout from the Brexit vote both from an individual’s perspective but also (at the same time) trying to understand the ramifications for our sector and in particular our members.

If we consider some of the commentary prior to the result it was difficult to decipher the potential impact on us as a sector. In his blog published in Civil Society Rob Wilson warned the sector could take decades to recover if a Brexit vote was realised, predicting a ‘double whammy’ of reduced opportunities afforded by European income streams such as the European Structural and Investment Fund and Erasmus+, on top of a potential economic downturn impacting on vital income streams which could increase demands on our services.

I know of a number of members who utilise European funding through Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPS) and/or involved in Erasmus+ programmes which provide essential services for young people and the Brexit result must be unsettling. But also as a sector have we lost an ally in our endeavours to support disadvantaged young people? NCVO in their EU referendum discussion paper for charities purported EU values of social justice and solidarity may ‘strike a chord’ with many charitable organisations and we know organisations have used EU standards to hold UK governments to account.

The one certainty we have with the Brexit result is uncertainty but our members are robust and innovative and Ambition will support them to continue providing vital services to young people across the UK.

Tags:  Ambition  Brexit  Government  Young people  Youth services  Youth work 

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Make Salad Not Soup – Musings from the YOT Managers AGM

Posted By Barry Williams , 17 June 2016
Updated: 07 April 2017
Discussion and informed debate on the potential future developments and past successes within the youth justice sector dominated the Association of YOT Managers (AYM) AGM event I attended last week. Not having a youth justice background I am a relative newcomer to the work of the AYM and YOT teams in general. I was of course aware of the considerable impact and success YOTs have had on youth offending figures (75% decrease in young people convicted or cautioned since 2006/07), so I was not surprised to find myself among passionate, knowledgeable and experienced professionals. The Youth Justice Review was a prevalent subject with speculation of what might feature and the potential impact of Charlie Taylor’s recommendations. There is growing concern that any watering down of the 1998 act will have a detrimental impact on the quality of services for young people who offend or are at risk of offending.

Although it is widely accepted that YOTs have hugely contributed to an impressive national decrease in offending, re-offending remains stubbornly high (33% up from 2009/10). The YJB argue that the successful interventions that have led to a decrease in offending have had an adverse effect on re-offending figures, stating ‘there are proportionately more young offenders with persistent, entrenched offending behaviour in the youth justice system’. In CYP Now’s analysis on what works best in cutting youth offending, there was a strong indication that current practice is ineffective and that personalised interventions supported through a relationship with a trusted adult, focusing on the young person’s strengths and interests would support more effective outcomes.

Interestingly, we have had similar discussions with Ambition members about the role of youth services supporting a local youth offer for all young people across the UK. The role of a trusted adult in developing and maintaining a consistent relationship, especially with young people who require targeted support/services is vital to a successful outcome. It is apparent where multi-agency teams work collaboratively, recognising the need for distinct services that takes into account adolescent development, this supports better outcomes. However, I share the fear of my colleagues who attended the AYM event that it requires the multi-agency teams to be populated by professionals with distinct skills, training, knowledge and experience and not to populate teams with individuals with general skills. I liked Professor Ray Jones’ salad bowl analogy, where the unique characteristics of each professional area are still identifiable within the multi-agency team, much like the ingredients in a salad are still identifiable, yet contribute to the overall make-up of the salad bowl. By all means let’s combine resource and expertise but let’s not turn our salad into a mushy soup. 

Tags:  Ambition  Young people  Youth Justice  Youth Offending  Youth services  Youth work 

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Do character skills really matter?

Posted By Ambition, 09 April 2015
Updated: 07 April 2017
Helen Marshall, Ambition’s Chief Executive discusses the growing importance of character education and the youth sector’s role within it.


Resilience, confidence, self-awareness and motivation of young people are words we are hearing a lot in the youth sector and, reassuringly, in formal education too.  As the Chief Executive of an organisation that encourages all young people to achieve, I believe the personal character traits and skills which help young people to make the most of opportunities and overcome adversity, can be developed with the right opportunities and support.


Anyone who works in the youth sector will know that character education is at the heart of what we all do and always have done.  I’m hopeful that the Character Awards from the Department for Education marks a step-change in recognising and rewarding the expertise within the sector and breaking down the barriers between formal and informal education.

The importance of acquiring such skills is also increasingly being recognised by employers, like McDonalds, as of equal importance when recruiting school and college leavers. This is echoed by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) who comment:

Businesses feel very strongly that the education system must better prepare young people for life outside the school gates, or risk wasting their talents.” John Cridland, CBI Director-General

This focus on character is timely, as the latest school league tables reveal a growing gap in the GCSE attainment of children from affluent and disadvantaged backgrounds.1  There is also a growing body of evidence2 to suggest that character education is especially effective for young people facing economic and social disadvantage, typified by those accessing community programmes through our membership network.

Our experience delivering the hugely popular programmes like Skills for Adolescence and Action Up has proven that youth work principles and programmes can work with schools, increasing those soft skills, promoting positive choices and supporting better educational outcomes.

The youth sector has been fairly criticised for not evidencing the impact we have on young people’s lives, but in the last two years we have seen a huge shift in response to this criticism. At Ambition, we are committed to evidencing the impact of our work and building a solid evidence-base to demonstrate the long-term outcomes for young people.  This is important for the sector but even more important for the young people with whom we work.  We want to ensure we deliver the best support possible in developing character that makes a difference to young people’s future chances.


1. The Observer,

2. Paul Tough,

Tags:  Ambition  Character skills  Department for Education  Informal Education  Young people  Youth services 

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Ambition celebrates International Women’s Day

Posted By Ambition, 06 March 2015
Updated: 07 April 2017

International Women’s Day takes place on 8 March each year. In this post Head of Programmes, Julia Hargreaves, reflects on some of the challenges young women face today, and the positive role youth work plays in the transition to adulthood. 

International Women’s Day takes place on 8 March each year, and represents a fantastic opportunity for people around the world to collectively celebrate women’s achievements and call for greater equality. The theme for 2015 is Make it Happen, encouraging effective action for advancing and recognising women.

This annual event is an important time to highlight the specific issues facing girls and young women as they make the transition to adulthood.

On the surface, it may seem as though girls have less to worry about than boys. In some areas they are significantly more successful in making the transition to adulthood, particularly in education. However, this academic success doesn’t translate into career achievement, with women the majority of minimum wage workers, and still entering traditionally female occupations, such as social care and hairdressing (I Brinkley et al, 2013).

Only this week the BBC covered an OECD report highlighting girls’ lack of confidence in pursuing high-paid careers in science and technology, despite their school results being as good as or better than boys.

At recent events with our member organisations and girls they work with, the word confidence was a recurring theme. The sessions highlighted a number of issues facing girls – career aspirations, body image and positive relationships. When we talked about how we could improve support, developing confidence seemed to underpin a lot of the approaches.

The Demos (2011) report Through the Looking Glass focuses  on girls’ self-esteem. They highlight three key areas to empower girls, ensuring they receive the education, support and guidance needed for successful transitions:

      -Tackling poverty

      -Supportive parents

      -Improving teenage girls’ relationships with their peers

Ambition is particularly focused on supporting girls living in disadvantaged communities, many with limited opportunities and resources available to change their lives for the better. We recognise that we can’t do it all as a youth organisation, with schools and parents, and social economics having a hugely influential role to play in positive outcomes for girls.

However, through youth work interventions we can provide opportunities to increase the attributes that might help girls from disadvantaged communities. These include access to mentors, leadership training, enterprise programmes, industry visits and social action. These informal learning opportunities outside of school can make a huge difference to girls.

We want to Make it Happen for girls, working with them and their youth workers, and partner organisations that are committed to making it happen too.

Tags:  Ambition  Girls  International Womens Day  Women  Young people  Young women 

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Ambition pledges support for National Safeguarding Day

Posted By Rachel Smith , 25 February 2015
Updated: 07 April 2017

In celebration of NCVYS’ National Safeguarding Day, Rachel Smith, Head of Quality and Training, explains what Ambition is doing to ensure young people throughout the network are able to access youth services in a safe and protected environment.

Stop, Look and Listen, the second annual National Safeguarding Day from the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services (NCVYS), returns on 27 February. The campaign provides a brilliant opportunity for youth organisations to come together and collectively demonstrate their commitment to improving safeguarding policies and standards across the sector.

Throughout our 90 year history, Ambition has sought to prioritise the safety of the half a million young people accessing youth services in local communities across the UK. Child protection has received widespread negative media coverage in recent years, and it is more important than ever that youth organisations demonstrate their dedication to protecting young people from any potential source of harm.

Safeguarding forms an integral part of Ambition Quality, our hugely successful Quality Mark that supports infrastructure organisations, youth clubs and projects to develop and improve. Organisations completing the award must demonstrate that the safety and protection of young people is at the heart of everything they do, and ensure staff and volunteers have the skills and knowledge to implement safeguarding procedures. In the last twelve months we have trained youth workers in safeguarding and child protection to ensure they have the tools, support and information they need to ensure young people are kept safe.

The vital role safeguarding plays in achieving Ambition Quality demonstrates our dedication to NCVYS’ fantastic campaign and commitment to be part of a safer sector. National Safeguarding Day urges those within the youth sector to Stop what they are doing, Look at their safeguarding practices and Listen to young people, empowering them to take an active role in managing their own safety.

I am delighted to pledge support on behalf of Ambition to such a fantastic movement, and would encourage any other youth organisation to follow suit and spread the word.

Ambition’s pledge:

‘We pledge to continue to improve the quality of services for young people across the UK by supporting our members and partners to achieve Ambition Quality, our quality standard endorsed by The Charity Commission. Together we will deliver and demonstrate the impact of safe, high-quality activities and services ensuring young people get the best outcomes from local services now and in the future.’

Tags:  Ambition  Ambition Quality  Safeguarding  Young people  Youth services  Youth work 

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