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Young People Take Over The Council Chamber

Young people from across Poole came together on Tuesday night for the first Young People's State of the Area Debate.

Feedback from the debate will link in to next week's annual State of the Area Debate, which engages Borough of Poole and partners in debating the key issues facing the town and influencing the work of the council. This year's State of the Area Debate takes place on 2 December and will focus on 'How can we work together to ensure skills in Poole meet the needs of business and support sustained economic growth?'

On Tuesday night, students from Bournemouth University, Bournemouth & Poole College, Poole Secondary Schools Council and Poole Youth Forum came together to discuss 'How can we work together to ensure skills in Poole meet the needs of business and support sustained economic growth?' The 16-19 year-olds were welcomed by Cllr Elaine Atkinson, Leader of the Council, John McBride, Chief Executive and Geoffrey Smith, Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Board member.

Geoffrey Smith, Dorset LEP Board member and Chairman of the Employment and Skills Board, said: "It is absolutely vital that we listen to young people, they are our future workforce.  The Poole Young People's Debate gives the LEP’s Employment & Skills Board the opportunity to let young people have their say on the future of Dorset’s skills, but at the same time for them to understand the changing economic landscape and skills requirements of local, national and international businesses."

Following the welcome, the young people formed smaller breakout groups to discuss the debate issue facilitated by a youth worker and an economy/skills expert. This was followed by a feedback session which highlighted the key points raised by each group. The main points raised included:

• Young people want a voice in shaping their education and would like better independent careers advice
• Businesses have an important role to play in giving young people a better idea of the opportunities that exist locally and finding the local young talent they need to support their futures
• Personal, Social and Health Education lessons need to be more relevant to life skills. Teaching in schools should include learning about handling money, bank accounts, mortgages and employability skills.
• Young people were keen to explore the global marketplace and its impact on local jobs and how this affects choices and career paths
• Young people were frustrated that work placements are no longer a statutory duty in schools and need to be taken far more seriously. However, they felt work experience needed to provide more value
• Young people felt pressure to do well at school, go to university, and then get a job. However, they felt this seemed contradictory to what the marketplace needs in relation to employment and felt that it was important they also learn about the value of apprenticeships

Cllr Elaine Atkinson, Leader of the Council, Borough of Poole, said: "Poole's first Young People's State of the Area Debate really was a fantastic success. The engagement of young people is vital and hearing their views was fascinating. I look forward to feeding back to councillors, business leaders and members of the local community at next week's State of the Area debate to hear their ideas on how we can support our young people in the future to ensure their suggestions are taken forward. I hope to make this event an annual event and build on its success as the young people of Poole really are a credit to our town."

Jess Elms, Member of Youth Parliament for Poole, said: "I found the Young People's State of the Area Debate to be an amazing opportunity, and it is so important for young people's voices to be heard on issues they feel passionate about and will really affect them in the future. The event showed the passion that young people have for making a difference. They put forward different ideas, and it is important for the council to listen to young people, but more importantly act on their views. Often young people have views and no way of expressing them, in this case on skills and the sustainability of Poole, and it is important for these to be heard and taken credibly. We will be the next generation and we are the future of Poole and what it will become."

Tuesday's event saw a live Twitter feed used so that feedback from the event could be instantly updated and followed throughout the evening. The hashtag #YPSOADPoole was used and a projector streamed the feed throughout the evening. For next week's debate the hashtag #SOADPoole will be used and a similar feed will appear. People are encourage to tweet questions and feedback both prior to next week's event and during the evening.