Rewriting Narratives | Building ecosystems to facilitate youth empowerment
Updated: Apr 4, 2022
We are partnering with Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA)’s under the Digital for Life Fund to launch Project ASPirations. In this article, we unpack what youth work professionals and youth engagement volunteers can expect from the Hatch Aspirations Seminar.
A chain of impact begins
Rain or shine, you can count on finding 19-year-old Alyssa Tan nestled in one of the blue mosaic chess tables underneath a HDB block void deck, geared with learning materials and a warm smile. It’s not the most conventional place to find young people like herself hanging out, but it has grown into a place of solace for both her and the youth she tutors weekly.
Alyssa is one of the many young, passionate volunteers and youth workers who have turned up for Hatch’s first Aspirations Seminar on the Saturday morning of 19th March 2022. They are from Impart, a volunteer-driven non-profit organisation that enables transformative youth development.
Though the participants come from a diverse range of backgrounds across Impart’s three arms in education, community development and mental health care, they are united in the purpose: To learn how to better navigate the complexities of digital transformations and the opportunities they bring to support the development of their youths.
“Impart has always believed that if our youths are to succeed, then our organisations have to form an ecosystem of care around them. This collaboration with Hatch brings us one step closer to such an end,” said Joshua Tay, Deputy Director of Impart.
He added that Hatch's workshop in particular has equipped Impart volunteers with the ability to advocate for the youth's future by pointing them towards potential pathways forward.
“This adds a new dimension of value to their volunteer training and engagement, which typically focuses on establishing healthy relationships and addressing immediate academic needs — but with little wherewithal for longer-term planning.”
The journey up till Project ASPirations
Hatch is an impact-driven business with the mission to make digital and design opportunities accessible for all.
Hatch Academy runs skills and employability programs in digital and design with a focus on supporting learners from all walks of life. Hatch Mediahouse provides trusted and accessible digital consultancy coupled with a suite of digital and design services to help organisations navigate their digitalisation journey.
In 2018, Hatch Academy started the pilot run for our flagship train-and-place impact program for out-of-school and at-risk youths with just 3 participants. In 3 years, the Hatch Customised Immersive has trained a total of 150 learners across 10 batches.
“We journey closely with all the learners who come onboard our program, devoting time to understand different learner profiles and cater our training to each unique learner,” said Choo Li Ying, Chief Operating Officer at Hatch.
“When we were unpacking their journeys, we realised that support systems play a pivotal role in enabling meaningful pursuits. In the context of programs where we work with vulnerable youths, a supportive ecosystem (ie: their social worker, caseworker, community worker and volunteers) makes all the difference in whether a youth feels empowered to embark on positive or meaningful change”, Li Ying added
“This got us thinking about curating an array of programs tailored for different touchpoints and different stages of a youth’s journey, including that of their support networks. ”
That’s why we came up with a three-tiered engagement program, Project ASPirations, to address this opportunity and empower digitally youths from all fronts.
Project ASPirations is launched in partnership with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA)’s Digital for Life Fund. Digital for Life is a national movement set up by IMDA that rallies the community to help embrace digital technology to enrich the lives of others.
The first tier of our program focuses on building 𝘼𝙨𝙥𝙞𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨, where we run interactive seminars to train Youth Support Agents to better understand how to facilitate more intentional conversations with their youths on the potential career opportunities in the digital design industry. Youth Support Agents typically comprise of social sector and education professionals, youth mentors and volunteers who interface frequently with youths.
The second tier directs efforts towards honing 𝙎𝙠𝙞𝙡𝙡𝙨, where we host hands-on digital design workshops and taster programs to help youths further navigate and explore their interests in the industry.
The final tier aims to enable actual, actionable 𝙋𝙖𝙩𝙝𝙬𝙖𝙮𝙨 for youths from disadvantaged backgrounds to overcome their existing barriers and kickstart their digital design careers.
Unravelling the potential of digital
Our Aspirations seminar is co-designed and executed with my long-time programming partner Bold At Work, a start-up that aims to equip young people with essential 21st-century skills to prepare them for the future of work.
The first half of the 3-hour interactive seminar kicked off with a crash course in the trends of digitalisation and what to expect in the future of work. Our focus on empowering youths with digital and design skills is because of their accessibility and growth potential. When it comes to digital, it does not matter where you come from - with the right training and support, anyone can be empowered to pursue meaningful careers in these fields and industries.
The volunteers from Impart also shared more about the challenges they face when engaging with their youths to think ahead about their future prospects.
Participants shared that most of the youths they work with have little to no indication about what they wish to pursue. As mentors to the youths, the volunteers found themselves bound by their lack of understanding of possible routes across different fields and industries, as well as the digital landscape.
This led to uncertainty about how the conversation on future prospects can be led in a productive manner.
For Alyssa, the greatest difficulty was helping her youth unpack their strengths and translate them into actionable to-do’s. Furthermore, her youth was only looking at work based on the immediate cash rewards that it provides. This meant that they were unable to devote time to exploring any career programs or workshops to help them gain more clarity.
“I was unsure about how to introduce the topic of career progression with my youth because I did not know where to start, ” she added.
Started with curiosities about how she could do more
Though Alyssa has only been with Impart’s education arm for 5 months, she exuded an invigorating sincerity and resourcefulness in finding avenues to better support her youth.
Previously, she was helping at a tuition centre when she noticed a recurring pattern in students who faced trouble learning effectively in the classroom. Students in this group were usually struggling with personal life challenges at home or had learning difficulties.
“This made me wonder if there was something else I could do outside of structured lessons to offer individual support for such students,” she said.
That’s where she took up the role as a youth advocate at Impart, which enabled her to provide a more catered tutoring approach that also focused on the youth’s holistic well-being.
To her, being able to witness her youth’s incremental improvement is what makes her tutoring experience the most rewarding. Instances that affirm her were fleeting, but not any less significant. She fondly recalls catching her youth gradually gaining more confidence when responding to academic questions.
“If they can achieve something that they thought impossible in the past, then such sessions have been beneficial in increasing the youth’s self-belief,” she added.
Since Alyssa’s youth got started on her current job, scheduling to meet up for tutoring sessions was often an exhausting feat for both of them, let alone ensuring that assignments are completed beforehand. But there was one particular session that moved her when her youth went the extra mile to prepare ahead of the meeting.
“Seeing that the page was filled with underlined words and handwritten notes was a touching moment. I was glad that my youth took the initiative to do this, as I knew that her limited time made it incredibly difficult,” Alyssa said.
Learning how to facilitate more intentional conversations
The second half of the Aspirations Seminar covered available tools that participants can use to engage their youths in their exploration of possible career pathways they can take.
Bold At Work shared their collection of resources, giving participants the opportunity to experience them hands-on and assess scenarios where they can be helpful. They designed the Bold Methodology, a 3-pronged framework that guides youths at different stages towards more intentional conversations regarding their life goals and career aspirations.
“The wide variety of tools — span career planning to psychometric assessment — caught my attention! No one tool will serve as a fix-all for every youth need, so it was really helpful to be equipped with a diversity of options to journey with our diversity of persons,” said Joshua.
It begins with activation, prompting youths to introspect and become aware of their preexisting personal assets such as values and strengths. This is followed by alignment, where they can better understand how they can play to their strengths in what’s available in the market. Finally, they can take actionable steps to work towards building the relevant skillsets needed to kickstart their journeys.
For example, one of the activation resources, the career archetype, helps to reveal implicit strengths that may not be apparent to youths. Upon assessing their inputs, it also recommends possible industries that could complement their personalities and interests.
This was good in encouraging the youth to talk about their attitudes or views towards working in such environments, said Alyssa.
She added: “The ‘Gift’ component could help to put into words a certain feeling or motivating force that the youth could find hard to describe or vocalise. This provides a way for the youths to talk about their ambitions or personalities.”