Over 150 local young people from 60 secondary schools gathered at Aerospace Bristol under the wings of Concorde for the West of England Schools Summit hosted by Metro Mayor Dan Norris, and co-designed with Creative Youth Network.
The students were there to learn about the careers of the future they might follow and make their voices heard on key regional issues affecting their lives – and so directly shape the policy decisions of Mr Norris’s West of England Mayoral Combined Authority.
They did this by taking part in a series of interactive workshops led by top regional employers. Student favourites included a session from Bristol Energy Network on cutting energy use with the aid of a giant Monopoly-style board, and explored with engineer and planners how students would like to see themselves moving around the region in the future.
Ten students also got to pitch their brilliant policy ideas to Mayor Norris and his expert panel of business leaders in live Dragon’s Den-style competition.
Meanwhile at the ‘marketplace’, young people could pick up some wildflower seeds to help the efforts to make the West the bee and pollinator capital of the UK, meet a robot dog and learn about the routes to becoming an apprentice. They also got to find out about the skills they would need to take up jobs helping tackle the number one issue for the region's youngsters - tackling the climate and ecological emergencies in the West.
In fact, Mayor Dan Norris told us the climate emergency was definitely the biggest talking point at the supersonic charged event. Commenting he said: “Thank you to all the students who came to my West of England Schools Summit and for sharing your brilliant ideas to help my Mayoral Combined Authority get on with making our region an even better place to live, study, and thrive. You told me your number one issue was the climate and biodiversity emergency we face, but more importantly you also looked for solutions."
The ideas from the young people will directly feed into West of England Mayoral Combined Authority policy - including an upcoming West of England plan for transport - while the Mayoral Combined Authority will issue progress reports on how the Summit has shaped change and impacted the region.
Mr Norris continued: “This Summit was all about asking young people what kind of West of England they want to see - and turning their ideas into reality.”
The Metro Mayor was joined by event sponsors Deloitte, Atkins and Airbus. Other companies and organisations taking part in the day included Air Giant and the National History Consortium.
Climate and Ecological Emergencies
Young people will be most impacted by climate and ecological emergencies; and have an ever-growing role to play in taking action. Our region must embrace this and have mutual learning between those delivering actions now, and young people who will be taking future action.
As we launch our 2023 Climate and Ecological Strategy and Action Plan for the region, we are exploring with the young people some of the key challenges - and how the West of England is taking action on the climate and ecological emergencies our region faces.
The Summit provides young people and the Combined Authority an opportunity to learn from each other in shaping these actions and careers advice on retrofit, nature recovery, sustainable transport and renewable energy.
Our plan for the year ahead in the West of England include:
Future of Transport in the Region
This is a chance for young people’s voices to feed into our thinking as we get ready to develop our next regional Transport Plan and set out our vision for the future of transport across the West of England.
Hearing from the next generation to understand their experiences of getting around our region and how they see the transport network developing. Understanding what needs to change now to support sustainable transport in the future.
We face significant challenges around air quality and environment across the region. We need to look at new ways of moving around to reduce our impact on the local environment. This means using more public transport, walking and cycling and driving less. We are investing in new things to help improve transport across the region and make walking, wheeling and cycling more attractive.
Enabling all young people to achieve their potential and make their best next step is a key ambition for the Combined Authority. In this workshop, young people will be able to give their views on the current support available to them to achieve their aspirations and what barriers they experience.
The young people will have the opportunity to engage directly with key employers in the region, such as HPE and Airbus, and shape how employers can better engage with diverse future talent. The input from the young people will help shape the future strategy for Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance in the region as part of the Careers Hub and Employment and Skills Plan.
Culture and Creativity
Often young people's voice is missing from cultural policy and decision making around art in places where young people’s live, work and study.
For us to understand how young people consume and produce culture currently, we need to understand what's missing from their point of view, what are the barriers to accessing arts and culture and to feed this directly into the roll out of the Combined Authority Cultural Plan. This can then influence investment and future arts and cultural provision across the region which is relevant and meaningful for young people.
There are lots of things that can affect our health, including where we live, our jobs, and our environment. The West of England Combined Authority is working on ways to improve our health and wellbeing with different programs to support this. Input from young people will help set the future direction of the West of England’s Combined Authorities’ approach to health and well-being in the region.
With the support of our region's youth empowerment organisations; Creative Youth Network and Babassa, we were able to engage with local young people and recruit them into professional creative roles as part of the West of England Schools Summit.