The Power of Youth: Achieving a diverse workforce through equal opportunities for young men and women

My name is Annabel May, I am a Business Administration Apprentice and work on the National Society of Apprentices initiative. I attended the Cedefop x OECD symposium to ensure that apprentices’ opinions are heard. Banner image: Shutterstock/Wang Sing

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The OECD's Power of Youth series showcases the perspectives and experiences of young people who are shaping the future. Exploring topics from gender equality and education to climate and careers, the series gives a voice to young advocates and activists who we met in different events, as well as members of Youthwise, the OECD's youth advisory board. Aiming to foster the fruitful exchange of expertise and perspectives across fields to help us rise to this critical challenge, opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the OECD.

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Please tell us a bit about yourself and why you attended the Cedefop and OECD symposium.

My name is Annabel May, I am a Business Administration Apprentice and I attended the Cedefop x OECD symposium to ensure that apprentices’ opinions are heard. It was a privilege to be there, although the realisation that my voice would be the only one representing apprentices all over the world was a daunting one. The talk gave me a great opportunity to represent the European Apprentice Network (EAN) and talk about the obstacles to making apprenticeships greener and change-makers responsive to our proposals. Some of the issues that I raised about ensuring apprenticeships are sustainable included transport (regarding safety and cost), housing and the expenses that apprentices on low wages have to deal with.

What did you want to be when you were younger and what do you do now?

When I was younger, I knew that I wanted to bring about a positive change within society. The European Apprentice Network has allowed me to voice my opinion on certain aspects within the apprenticeship system and bring about change in England as well as Europe. Doing this at a young age allows me to have a greater impact on not only my future but also the future of thousands of apprentices around the world. 

Which OECD data point or trend do you find particularly interesting on youth and recovery? Please explain why it stands out to you.

One of the most interesting trends that was presented came from data that showed that more young men are gaining digital skills than young women. This is a trend that is visible in all countries. And while young women are more likely than their male peers to graduate from high school, to see that young men are primarily the ones getting a degree or vocational qualification in STEM fields—and getting employed in those fields—is particularly discouraging. Ensuring equal opportunities for both boys and girls is key in producing a diverse workforce for the future.

What is the most striking take-away from the panel you participated in?

The most striking take-away that I found when taking part in the panel was how well listened to I was. In today's society, respect for apprentices is very low, so to be invited to talk and be listened to was a great step forward that allowed ideas to be shared and generated across the board. As mentioned, I was the only apprentice present, so it is my hope that the next conference will include more peers, perhaps from EAN or L’Association Nationale des Apprentis de France.  

Tell us about one youth-led initiative—either one that you work on, or another—that you find particularly inspiring.

A youth-led initiative that I currently work on is the National Society of Apprentices (NSoA). We represent the voices of apprentices at a local, national and international level regardless of where they live, what they are learning or who they work for. We also help them reflect on their experiences and engage with decision-makers on the issues that affect them. 

At NSoA, we share a passion for making positive change for young people; we have a lot of fun doing it, but it has a serious side to it, too. Making sure apprentices are at the table when people are making decisions about us comes with many ongoing challenges. The message we would like people in power to hear is the following: “If you’re making decisions about apprenticeships, find some apprentices and see what they think. If that sounds difficult, don’t worry, at EAN we’re happy to help”.

Find out more about the OECD's Power of Youth project

Find out more about the OECD's Power of Youth project

Related Topics: 

Future of Education & Skills Future of Work Tackling COVID-19 Climate SDGs

Annabel May

Apprentice, Business Administration

Annabel May is currently working as a Level 3 Business Administration Apprentice at New Schools Network. She works across different areas of the company including HR, Finance, Cyber Security and External Relations. Outside of her work, she volunteers for a number of organisations including The National Society of Apprentices and The Organising Bureau of European School Students Union to further raise awareness of the important social issues young people are facing today. Some of these include making apprenticeships sustainable and ensuring a greener and prosperous future for all.