At the age of 16, Jack Parsons left school with no proper qualifications to quickly become one of Britain’s 1.3m NEETs – young people who spend six months or more not in employment, education or training.
He was repeatedly told by teachers that without a degree, he had no prospects, and employers didn’t want to know him without having gone to university. He was ambitious, and driven, but felt recruiters were putting too much emphasis on paper qualifications and using outdated screening processes to hire young talent.
Parsons took matters into his own hands and created youfeed.com, a social media tool designed to bridge the gap between talented millennials, who may not have the right academic qualifications, with potential employers.
Using advanced algorithms, the yourfeed platform matches young people with opportunities that directly matter to them, from appealing employers, getting rid of traditional CVs in favour of skill-based recruitment in the process.
Armed with £700,000 investment and with the likes of Facebook, Google, The Big Issue and The Training Room behind him, Parsons, now 23-years old, was able to launch yourfeed just last month. The young entrepreneur told Business Advice how employers can and should be engaging millennials more easily.
(1) Who are you and what’s your business?
I’m the founder of yourfeed, a platform that allows people to showcase their skills, ambition and values the way that’s comfortable to them, whilst still allowing employers to identify key skills when hiring.
Yourfeed identifies the intentions of young people and provides them with relevant opportunities because of it. These aren’t just career opportunities either, they’re relevant in finding brands that match young people’s values. It’s a platform of opportunity and empowerment, which goes for employers as well as candidates.
(2) How long have you been around for?
The ball really got rolling in March 2016. after my co-founder Haydon Godbeer, and I spent months researching and networking to truly understand the pain points from the perspective of both young people and brands.
From starting in a coffee shop to now moving into an office with 20 of us and advisors from the likes of Google, Havas Media and now a FTSE 100 company, it’s been one incredible journey and it’s only just begun.
(3) How do you make money?
At first, yourfeed will follow a familiar subscription-based service which you’ll see on many other social platforms, but the idea is to evolve this over time. We don’t have a one-size-fits all package, and all profiles are free, however posting opportunities and certain features will be paid for by employers.
(4) What makes you different and why should people take notice?
What really makes yourfeed stand out are the individuals behind it. Each member of our team has their own purpose and passion for why they want to succeed. From the members on our board to the apprentices in our team, we all have our own reasons for wanting to help young people.
This was the inspiration for kicking off our tour, which for 90 days will head around London visiting universities, colleges, housing associations and training providers to up-skill young people and connect industry to education. We are different because we all are passionate about this change, and are doing just as much offline as online to drive that.
(5) What’s your biggest achievement to date?
The yourfeed team has just won its first award for best company culture, which is amazing! I think my biggest achievement of the year so far is winning Natwest’s young digital leader of the year.
(6) Describe what is meant by the term “youthquake”. Why is it important for businesses to nurture young talent?
Every outlet, from the The Guardian to the Daily Mail, put the result of the last general election and Labour’s surprise surge in the polls, down to a so-called ‘youthquake’. The reality is that industry and education as a whole is letting future generations of young people down, and our mission is to change that.
Businesses are still looking at academic qualifications when hiring from a primarily skill-led pool of talent. Just look on Youtube or Instagram and you’ll see so many talented people with relevant skills that are being missed by outdated recruitment strategies that still use CVs.
Some 66 per cent of young people are unhappy in their roles, while 1.3m are unemployed not in education or training, and 68 per cent of graduates aren’t entering grad-level jobs when they finish university. This is unacceptable, when 75 per cent of our workforce will be made up of these same young people by 2025.
It’s in the interests of business to try to understand, cater for and nurture these talented youngsters. Just because they don’t have a degree or relevant experience doesn’t mean they don’t have huge amounts to offer Britain’s employers.
(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?
Starting a tech business, or any business for that matter, means making a lot of mistakes, and when we started out we had no experience. Having very little knowledge in technology meant an immense amount of research and guidance was needed on which routes to take, and we had many trial and error setbacks whilst relying on third parties and contractors.
(8) In five years’ time, I will be…
I hope to be connecting young people all over the world with jobs and opportunities they’re excited about.
(9) What one tip would you give to others starting out?
I’d give them two main tips – build your own personal brand and surround yourself with mentors. I meet a lot of people wanting to start out a business and I always give similar advice, because it’s been key on getting this far.
Ask yourself what your real drive is. A business without a passion or cause to drive positive change just won’t succeed. Also, get yourself a co-founder. Starting a business isn’t easy, and there is so much to take on, but having an individual with skills which complement yours, you will cover more ground and have each other to fall back on.
It’s also important to build a network of people who want you to succeed and are happy to share their knowledge. You will be making an endless amount of decisions, and will need their guidance.
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