The opportunity of work experience and community service
"There’s a book called Our Kids, by Bob Putnam, which is dominating the American political debate on poverty. It seeks to explain why the college-educated, professional classes continue to move ahead while those at the bottom can remain stuck.It describes a whole series of advantages that those at the top have but can be lacking in others.
"The informal networks of support, the mentors, the social connections, all helping to give young people the soft skills and extra advantages they need to navigate the fast-moving seas of the modern world. And when you add all these advantages up, it’s no surprise that there’s an opportunity gap between the rich and poor.
"The work that active, demanding parents do is fantastic – passing on life-enriching experiences to their children, and rightly being unapologetic about helping them get ahead. It’s only natural that parents use our experience, social networks and connections to give their kids the best start in life.
"So my starting point is not to ask “how can we stop some parents giving their children a brilliant start?” What motivates me is helping the most disadvantaged kids to catch up."
Excerpt from David Cameron's speech on Life Chances January 2016
The speech continues with some examples, one of them being work experience; "Work experience for schoolchildren can be a transformative opportunity. It gives children the chance to experience work and talk to adults who aren’t just authority figures like parents and teachers."
And another being community service - a formative experience that builds character, showing young people the power of service to others, and not just self-service.
How can churches help with these?
Firstly, churches themselves are places of work and of community service.
Could your church provide work experience by inviting disadvantaged youngsters to shadow some of the staff over a week?
Could disadvantaged youngsters help with some of the social action programs e.g. foodbank, parents and toddlers, elderly care?
Secondly, many in the congregation are employed and some would also run their own companies.
Could church members be envisioned and offer work experience opportunities intentionally to disadvantaged youngsters.
Lives and futures could be changed as a result.
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Geoff Knott, 11/05/2016