Student of the year award
Crispin Moger, CEO at Marmalade, a leading provider of cars and insurance for young drivers, discusses some of the misconceptions around young people – and the support needed to help them realise their full potential.
“Young people today often get a bad press, with sensationalist headlines screaming about their binge drinking, questions over the difficulty of their exams or their high level of involvement in car accidents.
“We know from our experience and day-to-day contact with our customers, who range from 17 to 25 years old, that this portrayal simply isn’t accurate. Like any age group there’s a wide mixture of personalities and the bad actions of a few can ruin it for the many, making headlines for the wrong reasons.
Challenging times for young people
“There is a growing concern about the mental health of young people today, a subject close to my heart, and recently both the Government and a group of high profile figures have launched campaigns to highlight this important issue. A survey launched will reveal the exact size of the problem, though not available until 2018, but it’s easy to see the very real financial challenges facing this group. University students are often saddled with a massive student debt and the spiralling cost of houses making it ever tougher to get on to the property ladder to name but just two.
“What I find reassuring and hugely impressive in the midst of all this negativity is the number of young people who not only succeed but do so against the odds. This was particularly apparent at the recent Student of the Year awards, which we were honoured to sponsor. In its inaugural year, the UK-wide annual programme seeks to find and recognise students who have talent, achieve outstanding marks and who give back to their school or college and their community. This event attracted some truly inspirational young people who had overcome disabilities and adversities to achieve excellent exam grades, sporting triumphs and helped so many other people because they wanted to.
“It is this spirit that needs to be nurtured and although schools are an obvious place to start this process, we all have a job to do, from parents and carers, education establishments through to the government and industry. There’s no one solution that fits all. Every person has individual skills and preferred ways of working, which means that rather than introducing more tests to help young people improve, as per current Government proposals, more research needs to be undertaken as to what is going to help the widest selection of people. I believe that focusing on those who are academically gifted and do well in test situations is not the best way of doing so as this is potentially missing out a huge pool of talent just waiting to be tapped into.
Important life skills
“One of the key things that young people need to be taught – and that we all need to remember – is that it’s ok to make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, it’s a very human thing to do, and actually making and learning from these experiences is a critical part of a person’s development.
“When it comes to learning to drive, which continues even after passing the test, we know that our customers are going to make mistakes and gear our services to offer extra support while they are building up that all important driving experience. Rather than penalising them for the smallest mistake, we pick up the phone and discuss the issues, providing one-to-one support and training to ensure that they don’t make the same mistakes again. This has led to a dramatic improvement in the safety of our young drivers. Our customers are 75% less likely to have an accident in the first six months after passing their test than those on a national basis.
“Sadly many people are scared to make mistakes, which can stop them expressing their ideas for fear of being shot down. This is the grown up version of sitting cross-legged on the classroom carpet eagerly raising your hand, only for all your fellow pupils (and maybe even teacher) to laugh at your response. Education and workplaces aren’t always conducive to new ideas and the results can be potentially very damaging – and social media compounds the issue, making it very easy for ignorant and unhelpful people to attack anyone who is trying to improve themselves or do something special.
“This fear of failing can cause people to give up before they’ve really started and that is an alarming trend that seems to be more common with young people. It’s all too easy for young people to say ‘I can’t do it’ and give up, but everyone is good at something and it’s about focusing on these talents and continually working on them until they provide the individual with a real advantage in this increasingly competitive world.
Let them compete
“As an adult, many situations in life are of a competitive nature, whether it’s a place at a university, course, job or promotion, and it’s important that young people are taught from a young age how to maximise the best of their skills in order to compete with others. Part of this is learning that you will win but will also lose sometimes, and be able to cope effectively with both situations.
“I don’t believe that this competitive nature is always encouraged in young people today and in the last 10 to 15 years have noticed a worrying trend to reduce the level of competition and recognition for individual skill sets outside academic subjects. For example, at school not every kid is academic but some may instead be great athletes. People will be awarded an A* if they are excellent in the classroom but many sports days are now losing their competitive edge and no longer focus on the individual, instead promoting success of teams. If there are no winners in sports day races then how can those with natural sporting abilities realise this, be rewarded and encouraged to develop their talents further?
“When applying for jobs this competitive edge is critical. It’s very obvious from the initial communication of CVs and covering letters which candidates have made an effort – there is absolutely no excuse to misspell introductory emails when everyone has access to spell checker. I am saddened when I see potentially excellent candidates miss out on opportunities because they did not present themselves in a good way or in a manner that is appropriate to the opportunity. Knowing how to communicate and present oneself properly are core skills that are essential to everyone and doing it well can significantly improve a young person’s chances.
Providing practical advice
“Many of the issues affecting this age group stem from a lack of experience, whether driving or applying for jobs and making career decisions. This is particularly true for managing finances and understanding the products available on the market. For example, short-term loans and credit cards can be excellent products when used correctly, but misuse can lead to years of debt as well as poor credit ratings and it is up to us as an industry to ensure that these things are understood by all consumers. This is particularly true of young people who may not have experience and need help to get started on the right foot.
“Historically the financial services sector has not been very good at providing clear and transparent information about charges and rights and how this impacts its customers (just check out the PPI bills that the banks have paid to date). However, thanks to closer inspection and a genuine desire to help young people by companies such as Marmalade, we are making inroads and enabling young people to make informed decisions about finances armed with clear and accurate information. We work with our customers to ensure that they understand their products that they buy, spending at least 10 minutes with every new telematics customer and when they are buying a car we ensure that all our costs are detailed at every stage of the process.
“The environment in which we all now operate is ever more competitive and it can appear to provide quite a gloomy picture for many. The light in the dark is that young people offer a wealth of creativity, ideas and talent which, with the right support and care, will not only help them to achieve their ambitions but make this world a better place in which to live”.