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How EY Foundation is amplifying youth voice

An interview with Chelsea Hargreaves on her journey with EY Foundation as a member of their Youth Advisory Board (YAB).

The EY Foundation, an independent charity, is celebrating one year of their Youth Advisory Board (YAB) which was set up to reflect the views of young people across every aspect of their work.

Made up of 10 young people from across England and Scotland, it represents a diverse range of backgrounds, with the Chair and Vice-Chair appointed as trustees of the charity.


YAB member, Chelsea Hargreaves shared her thoughts and reflections on her experience with the programme so far in an interview with EY.


Tell us about yourself?

I’m a master’s student, studying Public Health and International Development at the University of Sheffield, and a current member of EY Foundation’s Youth Advisory Board (YAB).


I grew up in a deprived area of West Yorkshire with no real knowledge of what the world had to offer or what I could achieve. When I was sixteen, I was approached by my Head of Sixth Form to apply for EY Foundation’s Smart Futures Programme. The programme introduced me to a whole new world of business and opportunity. I’d never spoken to people as well travelled and experienced before or been in offices that nice.


What have you learnt from the EY Foundation Smart Futures programme?

The programme taught me how to interview well, how to lead a team and most importantly, opened my mind to the different options I would have when leaving Sixth Form. I started to really think about my ambitions. 

The YAB not only provides me with opportunities – helping me grow as a person – but provides me with a voice that influences the Foundation’s work now and in the future.


What other opportunities has the EY Foundation given you?

Five years later, I still receive emails from EY Foundation and when the opportunity to be part of their new Youth Advisory Board came up, I had to apply!


Tell us about your role in the YAB.

The YAB is a group of 10 young people ranging from 17-24 years old, from across the UK. It puts young people right at the centre of the Foundation. Being a part of the YAB means I can use my voice and experience to influence the Foundation’s strategy and approach, which I think is incredibly important today.


Being a member of the YAB has allowed me new experiences. I’d never been to London before and now I’ve been twice! One of these times was for the Home Office Social Mobility Conference, which I was a speaker at. This was a resounding success and allowed me to create some important working relationships.


The second YAB meeting was held in Manchester where we really began to formulate our strategy within our first term on the board. We also got headshots from a professional photographer – which I will be using in the future on my LinkedIn!  The YAB gave me the opportunity to visit different cities, something I wouldn’t have been able to do before.


The YAB is now a year old – what has changed?

We have found our feet and our group chat is booming. I love hearing about all the brilliant things each of the members are getting up to, both in their own lives and with the Foundation.


COVID-19 might have halted our plans to travel to each of our hometowns, but it has created space for new opportunities and innovative ways using technology to help young people across the country. I can safely say we have risen to this challenge - the online focus and ease of accessibility have allowed me to discover new prospects which has really helped my networking within the Foundation and for the future.


Tell us about the future?

The Foundation are currently working with the Learning and Work Institute in order to evaluate the effects of COVID-19 on the programmes that they offer. I am proud to say that I will be one of the peer researchers and can’t wait to develop my skills and expand my network.  


The YAB not only provides me with opportunities – helping me grow as a person – but provides me with a voice that influences the Foundation’s work now and in the future.