Fresh talent

Young people in local government can make a real difference in their communities.

International Youth Day falls on 12 August. It is a day to celebrate young people’s views and initiatives, and for us to reflect on how society can meaningfully engage with young people as well as enable their innovative solutions to create a positive future.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenging time, especially for young people who have faced uncertainty about education, jobs, housing and what the future will hold for them. It has also made it more difficult to engage with young people, in schools, social settings and youth councils, and at events such as Local Democracy week. 

Young people are a vital part of our communities, and the LGA has resources to help councils drive inclusive participation – engaging young people on the biggest challenges facing local government as a whole, and not solely on what we might have traditionally seen as ‘young people’s issues’. 

One of the ways young people can make a difference in their communities is by becoming a councillor. The LGA’s Be A Councillor campaign (www.local.gov.uk/be-councillor) works to attract a diverse group of potential candidates, and supports councils with a toolkit to help us reach outside of our established networks to encourage new people to stand for election – particularly from under-represented groups. 

The LGA supports young councillors through events such as the highly regarded Young Councillors’ Weekender, designed to provide learning and leadership development around some of the key issues and challenges for young councillors and a unique opportunity to network with colleagues from across the political spectrum.  

There are also opportunities for young councillors to work and learn in their political groups through the Next Generation programmes, run by the LGA’s political group offices.

For those starting their careers as officers in local government, the National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP) offers talented graduates an opportunity to be placed in a local authority for two years, completing three or four placements in different departments and fast-tracking the development of their managerial skills. 

The NGDP has been used by councils to build a pipeline of new talent, allowing graduates to give back to local communities while furthering their own skills and careers.

The ideal would be to bring together some of our graduate officers with newly elected young councillors to creatively ‘sabotage’ the future. When we did this on a limited scale some years ago, the results were startlingly positive – so we have to be certain among the ranks of middle-aged officers and elderly councillors, such as myself, that we are certain of what we wish for, when it might include our own demise!

The LGA has also created an Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion Hub to support councils in engaging with young people and recognise the importance of working across different groups to ensure all young people are included from the LGBTQIA+ community, black, Asian and ethnic minority communities, disabled people, and women. 

By working together across communities, we can make democracy even more exciting and ensure our work benefits from different perspectives and lived experience.   

I encourage everyone to reflect during International Youth Day on the challenges facing young people, and how we can attract new, fresh talent to the sector to make a real difference to the ways in which we consider, design and deliver the best outcomes for our communities.

Author

Find out more about the LGA’s National Graduate Development Programme, please visit or email ngdp@local.gov.uk. For information about the Young Councillors’ Weekender, please email grace.collins@local.gov.uk. Visit the LGA’s Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion Hub.

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