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Overcoming Challenges And Seizing Opportunities On The Pursuit For Positive Change

08 Mar 2022 - 6 minutes to read

Overcoming Challenges And Seizing Opportunities On The Pursuit For Positive Change

Overcoming challenges and seizing opportunities on the pursuit for positive change 


‘So she did’ is a new podcast series from Tramshed Tech showcasing some of the amazing female trailblazers and changemakers across a spectrum of backgrounds. Through this series we aim to celebrate the incredible women and girls in our community and inspire aspirational females to believe that they can achieve anything they set their minds to 

In this episode, Lucy Hopkins, Communications Manager at Tramshed Tech spoke with Sarah Merry, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Education, Employment and Skills at Cardiff Council. Sarah talks about overcoming challenges and seizing opportunities as a woman in business and politics as well as the impact of Covid-19 regarding education, employment, and skills. 

It is thought that 65% of children entering primary school today will end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist, raising the question of how we can prepare young people today to develop the skills needed for the jobs of the future. Sarah Merry gives her thoughts on how we can prepare young people for the future of work and ensure that education keeps pace with the advancement of technology. 

We’ll give you a flavour of what was discussed here but for the full talk, head over to Business News Wales Podcast Hub.  


Why is International Women’s Day important? 


It’s important to celebrate what women have done in history and also a chance to think of some of the barriers that are still experienced by women today. These barriers can be many and varied and sometimes it's the voice in your head that tells you that you can't do anything because you've absorbed all these stereotypes and ideas about what you can and can't do. 

International Women's Day provides an opportunity to celebrate incredible women and remind girls and young women that they can be whatever they want to be and they don't have to follow a set of your rules that were written in the past. 

“It’s important to celebrate what women have accomplished in history and also a chance to think about barriers that still remain.” 

  • Sarah Merry, Deputy Leader, Cabinet Member for Education, Employment and Skills 


What advice would you give to young girls and women just starting out in their career? 


Never let the fear be the reason you don't do something. When I was first asked if I would be a member of the Cabinet, I asked how long I had to think about it - they said 15 minutes. This decision meant giving up my job and you have no real job security (if you lose your post, you lose your post) which would have huge ramifications on my family. I went for a walk around the building and felt scared of the prospect, which is why I decided to take the post. Not taking an opportunity because I was afraid would have been the worst possible reason, so I did it.  

If there's something you want to do, but you’re scared then you should do it and find your way out of it if it goes pear-shaped. 

“Look for something that you are absolutely passionate about. And then work towards that” 

  • Sarah Merry, Deputy Leader, Cabinet Member for Education, Employment and Skills


How has Covid-19 impacted children and young people in regard to education, employment and skills?  


I think the picture for children and young people is really mixed and we need to recognise that. There was a survey recently that suggested positive impacts on mental health and reduction of anxiety due to Covid-19. Schools don't always feel like a comfortable environment for children and we should reflect and learn from these findings because we want every child to be enjoying their school experience. 

We all know that it's not a level playing field for children and young people, and that really played out during Covid-19. If you have your own space at home, reliable WiFi and a quiet environment, this can make an enormous difference on how effective home schooling is compared to children who do not have these things.   

We have given a vast number of devices to children and young people, and I hope that we can carry on trying to make sure that they have access to it equipment, WiFi, etc. We can't ensure that every child has the same opportunities, but we are working to address some of those inequalities as much as we can. 


Have you noticed a difference in terms of engagement in education, employment and training between males and females? 


We’ve actually done surprisingly well in Cardiff in terms of keeping young people in employment, education and training. We’ve got a policy called Cardiff Commitment where we work with businesses, universities and the arts to make sure that young people take that next step.  

“Recent studies show that in Wales, almost 12% of females aged between 16 and 18 were not in education, employment or training, compared to 10.7% in 2019”- a small growth but still a growth”  

  • Lucy Hopkins, Communications Manager at Tramshed Tech 


Gender inequality in education can be noticed and we see a number of girls who drop out of education due to reasons such as pregnancy. It’s really important that we support these girls and re-engage them with opportunities. They are often more ambitious because they want to do what is best for their children. 

I would like to understand more about the barriers that affect young women and girls and how much of that is down to cultural issues or underlying emotional and wellbeing issues that we need to address. 

“We've actually done surprisingly well, in Cardiff in terms of keeping young people in employment, education and training, we've got a policy called Cardiff commitment, where we work with businesses, the universities, and the arts to try and make sure that young people take that next step.”  

  • Sarah Merry, Deputy Leader, Cabinet Member for Education, Employment and Skills 

On an anecdotal basis, I would say that most of the young women I meet and talk to are incredible. Sometimes, they just need a little bit of help and support to take the next step and have the confidence to know that they can. 

In terms of re-engaging them I would say you need multiple strategies. We're investing in our youth services and mentors, who can work on a one-to-one basis with young people. They are not prescriptive, and they try to guide them towards activities and courses, etc that could benefit them. The advice is tailored to the individual. 


Technology is such a fast-paced industry, how do we prepare young people today to develop the skills for jobs of the future? 


The jobs that will be the bedrock of industries in the future, we cannot even visualise today because technology moves at such a fast pace. We always tend to put jobs into the same mould as the ones we already know but we cannot do that for future roles. We've seen this in how social media has developed over the past decade or so, it’s very much about making sure that young people have transferable skills so that they are agile and adaptable. Not just hard skills, but also soft skills and personal skills.  

There is a lot on offer in terms of upskilling to gaining skills that can be transferred to multiple roles or industries is key.  

“It’s about making sure that young people have the skills that are transferable between jobs, we know that people may have multiple jobs during the course of a lifetime now.”  

  • Sarah Merry, Deputy Leader, Cabinet Member for Education, Employment and Skills 


Part of what we do with Cardiff Commitment introduce people from industry into schools to explore employment opportunities. If we think about an insurance firm, you might not think of the diverse range of roles available at this kind of businesses. We want to ensure that employment opportunities are showcased as effectively as possible so that young people feel empowered to take next steps. The Government role in skills development is crucial. 


Listen to the full conversation on the Business News Wales site.

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