Text us in our language

15th November 2002 at 00:00
LSC listens to student 'customers'. Ngaio Crequer reports

Do not say you want to "consult with" young people - "just ask them about stuff". Do think of using text messages and Internet chatrooms to get through to them.

These are just two of the tips given by Steve Proctor of the National Youth Agency to a conference on "Listening to Young People". It was organised by the Learning and Skills Council as part of its strategy to find out what young people - their customers - want from them and the Government. Other tips include:

* Do not arrange meetings at 3pm on a Saturday when many would rather be kicking a ball about.

* Do not choose an office for your venue - go somewhere where they will not feel out of place.

* Do think about getting a sponsor so you can give them a reward.

The conference brought together, for the first time, representatives of all 47 local LSCs with all the organisations involved with young people. And in keeping with another hint from Mr Proctor - make it fun - it took place at the Dali Universe, an exhibition of his art on the South Bank, in London.

Bryan Sanderson, LSC chair, said his business experience had taught him two things: "Always listen to your customer, and then again, and again and again, and look after your main product, the thing you are going to give to them."

Mr Sanderson, a former oil man as chair of BP, said they wanted to build a comprehensive picture and to "drill down" to find out what people wanted.

He also wants to make sure young people can understand him. Making "official" language accessible is a major objective.

Before Hannah Towell, 18, goes round the world on her gap year, she will work full-time for the Children and Young Person's Unit, re-writing jargon-filled government action plans, making them "child-friendly". Before she got the job she had never heard of any of the agencies representing young people. She wants more publicity telling people how they can get involved.

Dee Okiji, 21, a student at North London University, said a lot of young people found it hard to communicate with "people in suits". Something was needed to break down the barriers. "I would like to see youth workers, people with power, taking more interest in what people do with their time, in what they want to say, and in how to keep them off the streets."

She was also critical of some teachers who, she said, just turned up to give the lesson and had no real interest in what they were doing. "Teachers would work harder with people in school if they were being paid well, " she said.

She also said there should be more "recap" in class - going over what has been learned. She wants teachers to make sure every student advances. "Teachers should pay more attention to the quiet ones - they are quiet for a reason."

Ms Okiji also called for a National Youth Day, with young people meeting to get to know about other people's backgrounds. "We have fathers and mothers days, but nothing for the kids."

Andrew Du, 15, is a member of one of the units advising the Young People's Advisory Forum. He has enjoyed the experience of working with older people. "All we want is for our views to be considered, just considered," he said.

He says the Government is listening, "but it is all very well consulting - you also have to act".

Stephen Twigg, minister for young people and learning, is conscious of this charge: "The onus is on us in government to demonstrate that we have genuinely taken account of what has been said."

Meanwhile, Andrew was asked where he would like to meet in order to give his views. Well, he said, a lot had got done when they had all met up in a pizza place.

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