Young entrepreneur Jack Parsons claims to be making up for the government’s shortcomings with his mission to connect two million young people under the age of thirty with meaningful opportunities.
He aims to achieve this through the Big Youth Group, which was launched in January and is partnering with technology giants Google, Sage and Accenture.
This is Jack’s second venture, following the liquidation of YourFeed two months ago, his social networking site which was dubbed ‘LinkedIn for millennials’. But he has re-envisioned the business with more drive to succeed than ever and is putting YourFeed behind him. He has, as he put it, ‘learnt more in the past two to three years than most people learn in ten’.
I spoke to him about what the government is doing wrong, how his personal experiences have shaped his outlook, and the importance of social media. What struck me was his genuine passion, his ambition and his keen awareness of the problems young people in the UK are facing every day.
‘Young people don’t get on the property ladder these days, they don’t take out ISAs, they don’t sign up for pensions. What is their future?’
Making up for the government’s failings
‘I believe that the education, business and young people’s landscape is disconnected in all different corners. The government don’t help whatsoever, in my opinion, and they recently released that they are going to connect two million to this thing called the Apprenticeship Levy. However, this is just a tick box exercise. After drinking two red bulls, I said I’m going to connect two million young people to purposeful work-life experiences’.
Improving our odds
‘What is the young person’s dividend? Young people don’t get on the property ladder these days, they don’t take out ISAs, they don’t sign up for pensions. What is their future?’
Jack claims that his company will go some way to address this. ‘The Big Youth Group is a collective of youth brands that all have one common mission and that’s to improve the odds of young people’.
‘ … we have to come away from the Instagram lifestyle for a minute and really make core focuses’.
From NEET to thriving entrepreneur
The education system has failed Jack twice. ‘I grew up with a single parent, an alcoholic mum. I was told by my form tutor that because I couldn’t spell I should go and spend my career on a building site’. A few years later, following the collapse of the company who were apprenticing him, he ‘became a NEET and the only reason I didn’t become homeless is because I moved in with my dad’.
Jack’s past experiences have shaped his outlook and are what make him someone who can truly relate to young people. He told me ‘My passion, my hard work and my transparency is there to help young people’.
Big Youth Accelerator
After the collapse of YourFeed, one thing Jack realised is that, ‘not everyone wants to go and work for someone. Some young people want to start their own business. So we created this Big Youth Accelerator to help young people start their own business and then grow it’.
‘We are living in a world of coffee shop businesses and entrepreneurship now. And 60 per cent of the workforce feel they are underemployed, because they’re not using the right skills. Young people can learn from each other. Why don’t we create a marketplace that’s meaningful?’
When asked how crucial social media has been in determining his success, Jack replied: ‘One hundred per cent. Who would want to meet or even engage with a spotty twenty-one-year-old. And uneducated — might be smart, might have some passion — but doesn’t have any tangible evidence, and that was what I was two years ago when I first started. And social media has given me the platform to grow’.
Too much information?
But Jack has his reservations about the sheer volume of information available on the internet. ‘I think the mistake that is currently happening is there’s too much information online — how do we filter it? I believe all the technologies are great … but we have to come away from the Instagram lifestyle for a minute and really make core focuses’.
Jack claims that the big youth project will help to deal with this issue. ‘We want to go to every borough, take young people offline, educate them, up-skill them, network them with other like-minded professionals and then put them back online’.
‘We are living in a world of coffee shop businesses and entrepreneurship now. And 60 per cent of the workforce feel they are underemployed …’
Jack’s advice to young people
Jack believes that every young person has potential, but too many simply don’t realise it. He told me: ‘Young people don’t know what they don’t know, and I’m going to help them know it’.
I asked him what would be the one piece of advice he would give to a young a person who is unemployed or stuck in a rut.
‘Breathe. Take a step back and breathe. Write down on a bit of paper three main goals that you want to achieve. Stick that up on the wall and then find people that have achieved those goals and learn from them … do everything you can to achieve them, surround yourself with the mentors, the advisors, the people to make it happen’.
Jack’s advice seems obvious — but he is right. Remember to take a breath.