A view from the top: XLP

Ian Hiley, Head of youth work & Employability at XLP, talks to us about finding his way in the world of work and how a smile can go a long way.

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What was it like finding your first job?

I talk to a lot of people about finding their first job and I tell them all the same thing, connections is the best way. 70-80% of first jobs are got through someone you know, a friend, an auntie, somebody you play football with’s brother. For me I got a job at the pub I went to with my friends after college. The manager found out we shared a birthday and so the day after my 18th he offered me a job

What were you doing before you worked at XLP?

Before XLP and becoming a youthworker I was a barman, a chef and a quantity surveyor. These tasters of different jobs helped me know what I did and didn’t like. I then had the chance to be a volunteer youthworker and found a job that I loved. I’ve been doing it in 1 way or another for 18 years now. I helped set up a youth café in Derby using my barwork and chef skills and then joined XLP as a bus manager, learning to drive their double decker youth bus in my 1st week.

What interested you the most about working at XLP and how did you get the role?

I applied for the bus driving role after a friend of mine recommended the charity. I really wanted to move back to London and work in the inner city, I love living in Lewisham and this charity gave me the chance. Our youth bus was I thought a great idea to take a fun youth club on wheels to where young people hang out. Through this we were able to start load of sports groups and teams and to enable so many different opportunities for young people to try new things. 13 years later I’m so glad I joined, and I hope others who join us may have similar long journeys with the charity.

Working with young people is at the heart of what you do, so how important is it to XLP that you hire young people too?

XLP hires young people for 2 reasons. We know we are a welcoming place, a place where young staff can learn a lot and have the chance to grow and develop skills, gain experience and get promoted. 4 of our Youth Work managers started with XLP as young people or volunteers.

The 2nd reason is young people and trends change so quickly that we believe we will always need young staff that can help us as a charity and as older managers always stay connected and relevant to the needs, struggles and dreams of the young people we work with.

What are you most proud of at XLP to date?

I think the way as we have grown that we have still kept young people and long term mentoring relationships at the centre of the way we work. When I started there was 6 members of staff, now there are over 50 and I believe the young people that know us best would always say someone special is there to listen to them no matter what they go through.

How and where do you see XLP evolving over the next few years?

I hope now we are coming out of the pandemic that we will see are Arts programme grow back again. The creative arts and opportunities for young people who are creative has been really hurt these last few years and we really hope to be able to help by creating opportunities for young people and helping them with connections and networks in the creative arts.

I also hope we can continue to grow in how many young people we employ working for XLP to help give back to their community as well as how many young people we help train and mentor to go into good jobs elsewhere.

How can someone impress you in a job interview?

Smile, come in with an open mindset, ready to try something new and have stories to tell about their previous experiences. Examples are your best friend in an interview, don’t just use buzz words like teamwork but tell me groups and teams you have worked with or been part of before.