Zenna Hopson | Blog
page-template-default,page,page-id-50627,qode-core-1.0.3,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,brick-ver-1.4, vertical_menu_with_scroll,smooth_scroll,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-4.5.3,vc_responsive,elementor-default,elementor-kit-50694


What do employers need in the third millennium? What do young people need from us?


The education system is now so out of step with the requirements of living and working in the 21st century we need to rethink ways of capturing and measuring what competency looks like.

Society still peddles the mantra – get 5 “good” GCSEs do A levels go to university you are set for life,- that is not the reality or lived experience of many young people. It’s no longer true that getting your GCSE’s equips you for the world of work, only 50% of young people get to university after school and many of them leave with degrees that do not equip them for meaningful employment.

As an employer in the commercial sector and through my work in the not for profit sector, I know that when we recruit we look for what candidates can do; the skills they have, the ability to think creatively, navigate source information and turn it into knowledge, work as team, be solution oriented, solve problems. Their qualifications don’t tell us anything about these vital must have skills.

Many of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged young people in society have these skills in spades. They have managed households, sorted out chaotic parents, navigated away from predators and gangs, gone hungry so their siblings don’t have too, worked with their friends to identify strategies to survive. They know how to get things done, think outside the box, have the courage of their opinions, but they are often feisty or frozen and don’t flourish in a school system that doesn’t have empathy for their experience. So, they leave school without those bits of paper they have been told for 11 years are their passport to success.

Its incumbent on us to do what we can to encourage radical change in how we educate our young people, but equally we need to be innovative in finding ways to spot, attract and nurture talent. We need to address how and where we advertise, where and what we recognise as the competencies we need.

Whilst employers need to open up their recruitment, youth organisations need to support young people identify their talents and strengths, we need to find ways to help young recognise their lived experience in skills sets, not just pain and strife. In the challenges lived and overcome, the learning must be captured, so young people know how to translate their lives into a clear set of much needed employment skills.

We have a phenomenal work force who don’t hold conventional passports into employment, we have employers crying out for a resilient, self-driven, creative, workforce. Collectively we need to work on bridging this gap.

As employers move to skills-based employment let’s make sure schools and youth organizations get behind helping young people identify their skills and evidence them through their life stories.

Black Lives Matter – Why I protested


The trouble with white privilege is that it is so ingrained, so every day, that if you have it, you often don’t even know you have it. You enjoy it, you perpetuate it and you don’t even realise you are spreading it. 

I am 54, I grew up in Harringay, North London. My upbringing was a little unusual, I was partly raised by the family down the road, my parents excelled in loving me but were lacking in the “raising” me department, so number 65 stepped in. David Alasha came to England from Accra in the sixties, he met and married Roberta, and in 1964 their first son Tero was born, followed by Sammy in 1966 and Marty in 1973.

They raised me as their own and gave me siblings I would otherwise never have had. Growing up in a mixed-race household in the 70’s exposed me to the inert and overt racism. This was not an occasional thing but an everyday occurrence, from being stopped and searched, to name calling and being beaten up, I was not racially abused but was abused for the love of my brothers.  

Things are no better today for young black people in the UK, they are different, but sadly no better. The statistics speak for themselves, whether it is COVID 19 fines, stop and search statistics, prison populations, deaths in custody, death in child birth, or mental health statistics, all highlight that being black in this country is simply not fair. 

Young black people in our towns and cities are presumed guilty and have to prove their innocence.  They are stopped, they are searched, they are asked to identify themselves, they have to justify their very reason for being. The same is simply not true of young white people, whilst they too suffer poverty, lack of opportunity and woeful education, they are not assumed guilty on the basis of the colour of their skin. 

The daily microaggressions people of colour face go unnoticed by the majority of white people: the change put on the counter and not in the hand, the crossing of the street, the whispering, the jokes, the silence when you enter the office kitchen, the thoughtless choice of words, the CV not shortlisted because of an African sounding name. These are everyday events, punctuated with outright racist abuse and outright hostility. The day after Brexit, my brother was out in his van in Hackney, a man yelled at him, “now we have Brexit you can “F**k off back to where you came from”, it’s a long way back to Harringay. Whilst most people will recognise this as racism and would deem it unacceptable, they will still defend Britain as a bastion of inclusion.

The outrage at the violence committed by the very few involved in the Black Lives Matter protests, is used as a weapon to both condemn the protesters and to discredit and trivialise the movement. Whilst no one condones the violence, we have a duty to understand it, to see it in context of oppression and address the institutionalised racism that has led to it. Being purely indignant at it only serves to illustrate the very problem the Black Live Matters movement is trying to address.  When your life chances have been reduced because of the colour of your skin, when you are presumed guilty, when you are treated as less worthy, it is no wonder that some people descend to the level of the expectations of the white society. 

So yes, I took the risk, in my mask and my gloves, and I tried hard to social distance, but yes I protested. I protested because Black Lives matter, because virus or not there is a global opportunity to raise the issue, to challenge the status quo and to stand up and say enough is enough.  People of colour are exhausted; they have to deal with the discrimination and they have to constantly explain that racism is a real and not an imagined thing. So, this white woman needed to stand in solidarity and needed to try and share the burden of education and change. Black Lives do Matter and I did protest and I have never been more proud of my adopted city of Portsmouth as I was at that protest.