Why our Pathfinders training is needed
The top ten skills of 2025 include analytical thinking and innovation; creativity, originality and initiative; reasoning, problem-solving and ideation; and resilience, self-tolerance and flexibility (WEF, 2020). Further, an estimated 43.9% of young people aged 16-24 are looking for and available to work in the UK (ONS, 2021).
In late 2020, we surveyed almost 500 18-25-year-olds nationwide on public health and COVID-19. 71% of respondents felt their voices were not being heard; half did not have access to the necessary support; and 75% highlighted the need for more public health education. Thus, the Public Health Pathfinder’s programme, a data-driven initiative, was formed to respond directly to young people’s needs.
Read the full report: Voice of the Future: Listening to Gen Z on Covid-19, Mental Health, Education, Work, and Misinformation.
“This timely report reflects diverse young people’s concerns about public health during the pandemic, pointing towards the need for a much more context-specific and listening-focused approach to building trust in public health education. It starts an important conversation about whose voice matters when mental wellbeing, employment, and lack of trust in the media are at the top of Gen Z’s agenda, opening up a range of important questions for further study.” Dr Anna Carlile, Senior Lecturer in Inclusive education. Goldsmiths, University of London.
Following the survey, we ran a successful three-month pilot in consultation with young people in 2021. Our evaluations show that 100% of the participants found the workshops helpful, and 87.5% strongly agreed that the programme helped them manage their personal wellbeing better.
A Pathfinder’s story
By Zoë Stockton, A founding Pathfinders member.
The eight-member Gen Z team was formed as a result of the PHP Pathfinders Program in February 2021. We spent the first few weekly sessions getting to know one another and understanding how our lives had led us to engage with what was then Cov360.
We were a diverse group of postgraduate students with backgrounds in public health and non-related specialisms, translating into a broad range of opinions and life experiences. Getting to meet, interact, and learn from one another was one of the most rewarding aspects of the program, particularly against the backdrop of the pandemic and multiple lockdowns limiting our social lives.
The program consisted of a series of fast-paced workshops, in-depth discussions and inspiring talks from changemakers, industry leaders, and academics. The majority of us had never explored concepts such as design thinking so we were challenged with new concepts beyond our backgrounds, which proved incredibly useful for our project to reduce stress among young people.
Throughout this process, we realised that we performed best when the teams interacted and overlapped; our interdisciplinarity offered new perspectives for each of our ideas. With multiple similarities between our ultimate goals for our projects, the synthesis resulted in a project targeting stress in 16-18 year olds. Informed by our academic backgrounds, research during the program, and our lived experiences as young people, we believe we can equip future generations with the resilience needed to persevere through the challenges facing youth in modern life.
Despite time constraints and pressure from studies and work, every member of the Pathfinders cohort remained for the programme’s entirety. We are keen to begin the set-up to deliver workshops and resources on stress – a testament to the success of the program and dedication of the talented team.
This program provided a platform to collaborate and the confidence to lead with our own ideas, supported by PHP’s technical expertise and wider knowledge. We felt that our young voices were heard and respected, which they seldom are in public policy, and this empowered us to feel that our generation really does have the opportunity and potential to enact meaningful systemic change.
Guest speaker highlight
Gwendolyn provided a motivational session for the Pathfinders pilot training programme.
Born in 1990, a year after the Liberian civil war began, she was 13 years old when the war ended in 2003. Since then, she has formed Liberia Peace Messengers, of which she is Executive Director. Recently, she was listed by Time Magazine as one of the top Youth Leaders to watch. During the pandemic, she has worked with her national government leading the Liberia National Youth Taskforce Against COVID-19.