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I joined Co-op over four years ago and I now work over in Data and Loyalty’s Service and Demand team as Portfolio Lead. Alongside my day job, I’m proud to co-chair our Strive colleague network.  

Strive was set up to help support young colleagues aged 16-30 in their careers. In my role as chair, I aim to showcase the network to the wider Co-op and work with the inclusion team to set the direction of our work. At Strive, we actively work to become more representative of our diverse communities. When colleagues join us, it’s a chance for them to get to know other colleagues and give them a voice on issues that matter.  

I’m proud to see Co-op supporting young people inside and outside of the business. The Co-op is working to make apprenticeships more accessible for underrepresented groups by helping big businesses share unspent apprenticeship levy funds with smaller companies. Earlier this year, the business pledged £500,000 into this new initiative and called on other employers to join in creating a £15m fund. The Co-op’s ambition is that by 2023 the “apprentice opportunity gap” for young people from ethnic minority communities will be overcome. 

Age discrimination can go unnoticed in the workplace 

The Equality Act 2010 protects us all against age discrimination - which is when someone is treated differently because of their age. Unfortunately, it’s still possible for age discrimination to go unnoticed, especially in the workplace, where some stereotypes can be treated as facts.  Age discrimination towards young people can look like:  

  • Inappropriate language to describe a young worker. Younger employees have won employment tribunal claims for age-based harassment or being referred to as “kid” or “being too young”. 
  • Imposing a job requirement that is too hard for young workers to meet. 
  • Negative stereotyping of young people. 
  • Being passed over for jobs or being paid lower wages just because they are young. 

Why celebrate International Youth Day? 

Every year as a network and a business, we come together to celebrate International Youth Day. It’s an opportunity to “recognise and mainstream young peoples' voices, actions and initiatives, as well as their meaningful, universal and equitable engagement.” It’s also a time to highlight the barriers young people are still facing in work and society. 

The Co-op has a zero-tolerance approach to any kind of discrimination, but also understands that creating a truly inclusive working environment takes time and effort  – at no point can we ever say ‘job done.’ We need to continue developing a culture that offers patience and understanding, to young people who may lack experience, but with the right training, will make an even greater contribution to the business. 

Last year, we asked colleagues to join us in writing a letter to leaders of our Co-op. We asked them to voice how they felt about being a younger colleague and suggest positive changes they would like to see. I was amazed at the response we got from leaders asking to be involved with supporting younger colleagues in the careers. 

Kavita Mistry 

Service and Demand - Portfolio Lead   

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