The Samee Project is a unique and inspirational social enterprise that aims to promote self-employment and freelance working as viable career options to young people in school education, and the organisation secured its status as an IOEE Academy in February this year. Four months on, we caught up with its CEO and founder, Sam Everard, to discuss the pioneering programme being piloted in Dorset, her passion for helping young people to build confidence, and why developing these skills is more important now than ever before.
Sam Everard has always had an entrepreneurial streak, but her first business was in a very different industry; a self-started wedding coordination company called Roses & Garters. However, despite the disparity between the two, Sam’s wedding business actually led her towards the Samee Project, as Sam’s entrepreneurial skills were recognised by a prestigious organisation and she was invited to mentor young people who were wanting to set up their own businesses too; an experience that ultimately changed Sam’s career direction. Sam says:
“Whilst young people are taught some employability skills, self-employment is seldom presented as being a viable career option for students when they leave education. Careers staff and professionals in schools and colleges are asked to talk to students about what they would like to do following their exams, and the two main routes that are suggested are apprenticeships and higher education. Unfortunately, this rarely takes into account the next steps of the journey for students as they leave the education system, including the option of self-employment and what this entails.”
Armed with her experience of mentoring young people and her hands-on experience of running her own business, Sam was inspired to create the Samee Project, which is now being piloted in Dorset:
“After volunteering with young people through different organisations, I knew that we needed to bridge that gap and take students back to basics. They might be thinking that they want to be a freelance beautician or bricklayer or graphic designer, and whilst they’re still in the ‘safety’ of school, we can give them those practical self-employment skills – how to do receipts and invoices, what a tax return is, how to make contacts. The Samee Project teaches them these skills and gives them the confidence and support to know that they can do it.”
Advances in technology is one element that’s shaping the way that we work, with many job roles centring around the internet, giving companies and employees the flexibility to work anywhere. In addition to this, whilst people were once likely to begin one career path and work their way ‘up the ladder’ within the same organisation, young people today are much more likely to embark upon a ‘portfolio career’ of different jobs and industries, and strive to seek employment that helps to achieve that elusive ‘work-life balance’. Sam says:
“The young people with a trade, skill or talent, and those that want to do freelance and contract work, need to be nurtured and given the knowledge, information and support early on, so that they can start to plan what they want to do, think about their money, and develop the skills needed to ensure success.
There is also a need for young people to understand the difference between being an entrepreneur or starting a small business, and having a self-employed contract. Some students may not aspire to run their own business, but they may find themselves in a few years’ time having a freelance or consultancy contract, and will then need to be technically self-employed – so it’s important prepare them with the right information and a real understanding of what this means.”
Sam says that her passion for guiding young people into fulfilling and rewarding careers is what keeps her focused, and she gets great satisfaction from helping them to feel more optimistic, confident and capable:
“It’s fantastic to see the Samee Project having a positive effect. We recently helped a 14 year-old boy who told me he had no future because he couldn’t read or write properly, and said that everyone was giving up on him. Imagine my surprise when he showed me some of the photos he had taken – they are award-winning! He’s now in touch with my colleague, setting up a small self-employed income to enhance his career options – and he’s excited about developing his literary skills so that he can invoice and promote his work too.”
Sam says that the pioneering programme in Dorset could be just the beginning of the journey for the Samee Project:
“So many young people are disengaged with education, and we may be able to get these students to think about a skill or talent that they could develop for employment in a completely new and different way. We can already see the positive effects in Dorset and, in time, we would love to take the Samee Project further afield.”