Several young people have been employed by Watford Chamber of Commerce, shifting the popular view that age correlates with work proficiency.

Kia Whittaker, Lee Keogh and Danny Thompson are the Chamber’s apprentices. Their collective ambition and drive make them a strong team and since starting in their new roles less than two weeks ago they have already founded the NGN (Next Generation Network).

Kia said: “Since the pandemic we’ve seen 20-year-olds and teenagers getting made redundant. That shouldn’t be happening. We want to get our generation interested in businesses and networking, and help them build their confidence when speaking to new people.”

Lee said: “The concept for the NGN was born from all of our experiences. We know what young people need. So we’re making an avenue for young people to come and get business advice and give them the tools they require to prove their potential”.

Each apprentice has a “baby”, as they call them, at the Chamber. Lee’s is charities, Danny looks after the Kickstart scheme, and Kia’s area is the mental health first aid scheme.

The Watford Chamber has an ambitious target to train 1,000 people to be mental health first aiders, the apprentices included. 

Kia said: “Mental health has taken a hit this year, especially for young people. We want to be a facility for them to reach out to, and be able to talk to one of us. But, we also want to help them move forward.”

Danny said: “The Kickstart scheme is great. It’s intended to fill in that gap for young people and provides a gateway for them. And for businesses, it’s a bit of a no brainer.

“They have no financial loss from taking on a Kickstarter, as the Government pays their entire wage. And they get to see the unlimited potential of young people.”

NGN Logo, created by Danny Thompson.

NGN Logo, created by Danny Thompson.

Ines Ferreira, Niamh Carmichael, Rebecca Carroll and Harry Clark are experiencing the benefits of the Kickstart Scheme first hand.

Collectively, the Chamber’s Kickstarters had applied for more than 200 jobs with only around ten responses between them.

Harry said: “I applied for about 100 jobs over eight months after graduating last year. I just really struggled to find my next path. But the Kickstart scheme has been amazing already”.

Ines stressed how pivotal being at the Chamber is for gaining relevant experience, explaining. “They’ve moulded our roles around our career ambitions, which is fantastic”.

Niamh added: “We’re getting connected to people in our field and they’re catering everything around what will help us most.”

But for some young people, knowing what career they want isn’t clear-cut.

Rebecca said: “I didn’t want to go to university because I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and my school sort of pushed me aside. I didn’t get much guidance, but if they’d told me about the Kickstart scheme I would’ve jumped on it sooner. I’m already seeing the benefits and I’ve only been there a day.”

Chief executive of the Chamber Chris Luff said: “The Kickstarter scheme is brilliant. It opens an avenue for young people and businesses to connect, collaborate and learn from one another. It’s vital that businesses show more faith in young people so that both the business itself, and the young people they employ, can grow.”

He continued: “We’re proud to say that the Watford Chamber was one of the first companies in the UK to be set up as a gateway and to employ Kickstarters. I am beyond impressed with the capability, enthusiasm and commitment to their community that each one of them has shown in their first week.

"Obviously, it’s difficult for everybody to engage when working from home, but again, the ability of each Kickstarter and apprentice is phenomenal.”

If you would like to learn more about how you can support local young people through the Kickstart Scheme, go to the Chamber’s website. Or contact Chris Luff via LinkedIn or email

And, if you’re aged 16 to 24, fill out the NGN’s survey so they can make your experience with business more positive.