There’s no doubt that 2021 has been more difficult than expected, as my colleague Chris Hobson says in his overview of the year in the latest Business Network magazine.
Covid-19 has affected all our lives in many different and unexpected ways, and when the concept of lockdown was first termed in March 2020, no one could have predicted we’d still be fighting the virus now.
Our younger generation has, at times, been cut short of opportunities, with thousands of graduates coming out of university to a tumbleweed job market.
But that’s exactly where we want Generation Next to come in; to support young professionals by providing them with the skills, knowledge and opportunities needed to boost their professional development and succeed in their careers.
It is easy to get sucked into the doom and gloom when reflecting on the past year, but it is also important to reflect on the positives – and I believe what my team at Generation Next has built over the past year is an asset for young people in our region to lean on for business support and career development.
It is just shy of a year since we launched the Generation Next membership offering, and we now have a network of almost 300 talented young professionals from across the East Midlands.
A network like this is something I wished I’d had in the early days of my career – to share my experiences with others going through the same motions – so it is great to have watched it develop over this past year.
Throughout the year, members have had access to our online events programme, which has covered a range of topics from finance, marketing and sustainability to wellbeing, resilience and career development – and also welcomed leading business figures from across the region to share their stories and tips.
The Generation Next Awards made up a big part of our year. Through the programme, we championed seven category winners from 30 finalists – all comprising talented business professionals under the age of 35.
In July 2021, the awards streamed live on YouTube as we celebrated the high calibre of young talent in the East Midlands with our partners and board.
Back in April 2021, we launched our governance board – the Generation Next “champions” – which is made up of 13 young professionals and entrepreneurs.
Chaired by Future Life Wealth Management’s Emma Baumback, the champions are designed to be a microcosm of the young cohort within our East Midlands business community, and they take an active role in the development of our offering and profile to keep us relevant for the next generation.
We’ve also had the support of the 2021 East Midlands Chamber president Eileen Richards MBE as our ambassador, who will continue to champion our network in the new year. The team is also looking forward to working with the newly-inducted president, Lindsey Williams during her term in 2022.
Keep your eyes peeled for more on the group, which will be a key part of our development in the new year.
We can’t forget our valued partners, have been central to our growth over the past year.
Our headline partner the University of Derby has backed our network throughout the year, with two of its students sitting on our board of champions. We are looking forward to working with the team at the university to develop our mentoring offer for next year.
We’d also like to extend our thanks to our other partners GBS Apprenticeships, Nottingham University Business School, Fraser Stretton, Loughborough College and Hardy Signs. Each has helped with news and events content, fostered opportunities for our members and played a crucial part in our awards process.
Even though 2021 has been a year of development for Generation Next, we are still in the early days and always looking to develop our offering even further, and in 2022, we are planning on doing just that.
Possibly one of our most exciting developments for the new year is the launch of our mentoring service.
Launching in January 2022, Generation Next members will gain exclusive access to a portal on our website, which will enable them to link up with a mentor. Our mentors are made up of leading business professionals from across the region, from a variety of backgrounds, and will be on hand to offer career tips or advice.
Members will also gain access to our document library, which contains business advice and support tools. A discount service is also in the pipeline, launching later in the year.
The Generation Next Awards will be back for a second season with a refreshed look. Our team is currently working hard behind the scenes to finalise the categories ready for the launch in February 2022.
We are also hoping that next year’s celebration will be face-to-face so nominees can network with each other.
The awards will once again be open to young professionals and entrepreneurs aged between 18 and 35 currently excelling in their business – so if that is you, or someone you work with, sign up to our newsletter for updates on the application launch.
Moving into 2022, we are looking to achieve a blended delivery model for our events programme. While we’re watching the news with an eagle eye to be able to go ahead with our new networking events safely, we will continue to deliver online sessions, which will tackle a business or careers support theme each month.
Our 2022 partners will be a big part of this programme, each able to host an event through the year.
Of course, music to the team’s ears will be when we can safely network with each other again.
Generation Next is built on our members achieving longstanding relationships with likeminded business contacts via our non-traditional event settings – see our recent retro gaming get-together over a few drinks at Penny Lane bar in Nottingham.
We also want to connect with more businesses and organisations that share the same values as us; to support the young talent within Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire.
We’ve had but a taste of this potential in what can only be termed an unpredictable year, so we are looking forward to getting out to meet more of our members and partners in the new year.
Generation Next is a support network for young professionals aged between 18 and 35 based in the East Midlands. Its membership package gives young workers access to its events programme – which connects delegates with likeminded individuals, as well as leading business professionals from across the region, to build their networks and skills. For more information on how to become a Generation Next member, click here.