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Helping young people to build connections

Holly Firmin, Senior Community Partnerships Manager GB | Coca-Cola Europacific Partners

3 min read Partner content

For International Youth Day, Holly Firmin, Senior Community Partnerships Manager at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners GB discusses the role of youth work and support from businesses when it comes to helping young people overcome barriers to employment

At Coca-Cola Europacfic Partners (CCEP), it’s our view that every young person should have the potential to thrive – no matter their background or experiences.

In the current climate, we know that many are facing barriers to employment, which is impacting different demographics in varying ways. But youth unemployment remains at a historically low level1, which is incredibly worrying. So, the role organisations can play in helping to reverse this trend is more important now than it’s ever been.

Making the most of your toolbox

We recognise we have a responsibility as an employer to equip young people with the tools and resources that would enable them to thrive. In my view, giving back to the community isn’t just about providing financial support; we have other resources we can leverage to help make a difference.

That’s why we’ve been working with leading youth organisation UK Youth, to identify the barriers to employment many young people face today and designing a programme of work to help young people overcome those obstacles, empowering them with the skills, confidence and experience to feel workplace ready.

The programme has evolved over time to cater to the specific needs of young people. Our Reach Up programme, launched in 2018, was designed to boost the confidence of young participants through a series of workshops and interactive sessions delivered by youth workers and CCEP volunteers. For example, modules comprised of day-in-the life sessions with Field Sales representatives, networking masterclasses and mock interview.

Almost 350 CCEP volunteers have given more than 2,000 hours to support the programme, which has supported more than 400 young people.

Evolving support and changing approaches to hiring

Since then, we’ve evolved our partnership with UK Youth, and last year, we launched Building Connections, a programme which works to grow the capacity of youth workers as Community Link Workers, supporting them to build partnerships and networks with local businesses and employers, and turning those connections into opportunities for young people.

We’ve supported 290 people through the programme so far, working with youth organisations including Sussex Clubs for Young People, Young Leicestershire, Greater Manchester Youth Network and Together as One, who lead vital youth work.

As well as helping to create meaningful connections for young people in the local community with youth workers, and local organisations in-turn, at CCEP, we’re always thinking about how we can ensure our recruitment process and company culture is supportive of the next generation of talent. That means hiring people based on their attitude and potential rather than their academic achievements, and focusing on more than just one role. It’s the people we’re interested in and how their fresh thinking and lived experiences might contribute to our business.

The power of partnerships

The success of Reach Up and the Building Connections programme so far has been truly rewarding to see. It’s fantastic to see the impact that hard working volunteers in the local community and at CCEP has had on young people so far. It’s also underlined the sheer importance of youth work and why we need to keep funnelling our energy behind it.

And we can always go further. By working together with other businesses, we can create more opportunities for young people up and down the country, to ensure that, through youth work, they’re able to find their way into a rewarding career – in whichever sector they set their sights on.

It’s encouraging to see other businesses joining the fold and partnering with UK Youth in their efforts, and we’d welcome others to help to grow the Building Connections programme, to reach even more young people and tackle this important issue.


1. https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/sn05871/ 

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Connecting Communities is an initiative aimed at empowering and strengthening community ties across the UK. Launched in partnership with The National Lottery, it aims to promote dialogue and support Parliamentarians working to nurture a more connected society.

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