By Mark Mc Donagh
Spark+Mettle is a youth charity and social enterprise that helps 18-24 year olds, from less privileged backgrounds, pursue a life that they love and a career that will make them happy.
By providing training and arranging work placements Spark+Mettle enables its young people to create their own professional networks and move towards sustainable employment. I had the pleasure of meeting its director Eugenie Teasley. She is clearly passionate about the social enterprise and the role it plays in helping young people build their character strengths, soft skills and networks.
As we all have different strengths Spark+Mettle’s role is to identify what the young peoples strengths are and help them to play to those strengths. Eugenie explained that soft skills are work specific skills you need to be successful in a job, but are not specific to one profession. They are for example how you communicate and work with other people, the way you think and process information and how you manage your own time. Character strengths on the otherhand are the core elements of who we are.
Speaking on the importance of developing soft skills and character strengths Teasley said: “There is a theory that if you always try to improve your weaknesses that you are only going to be mediocre. In a lot of companies they only think of areas for development, or what you’re bad at, to try and get better. Our approach is different. We say that if you play to your strengths then you are really going to excel and be the best that you can be.”
Spark+Mettle works with young people from tough backgrounds, but they need to be self starting individuals, actively looking for something to take them forward. This is partly because much of the training is accessed online and in partnership with other youth organisations. On the individuals the social enterprise helps Teasley said: “They need to be young people who are actively looking for something that is going to take them to the next level. They also need to be young people who are interested in sharing what they have learnt with their friends and peers. We know we cant access the young people who are hardest to reach” adding: “we want to support the young people we work with to go and support those young people themselves directly.”
Moving forward the aim for Spark+Mettle is to grow the organisation, not by creating a big head office but by maintaining its flexible structure and building on its current philosophy; of building an organisation where the people working in it are able to flourish as much as the young people they are supporting.
To find out more about Spark+Mettle visit their website