Last week we spoke to former X Factor contestant Eoghan Quigg about his role as Youth Empowered Ambassador for Northern Ireland. The #YouthEmpowered programme developed by Coca‑Cola HBC is designed to give young people access to the life and business skills they need to transition into work. It provides an important stepping stone for unemployed young people who are seeking support and training that aligns with their needs and ensures they develop the tools and skills to succeed. Now in its third year, the programme is growing from strength to strength with the growth in the #YouthEmpowered Digital Hub offering free online training to all recent school-leavers and job seekers.
As an early school leaver who made the choice to go back to education, Eoghan has a personal motivation to be part of the programme which aims to empower young people to succeed through a journey of discovery and development.
I always say whenever I get ambassador requests in that I have I have to relate to what they’re trying to achieve and I did 100%. I felt like going forward it was a great partnership. I have my own backstory on education that I can share with the people in similar situations
When discussing Eoghan’s back story it struck me how open and honest he was about the challenges he faced. Eoghan, who is now 26, was only 16 years old when he appeared on the X Factor in 2008. The talent singer left school at 16 to pursue his dream, after touring for 3 years he decided that this was no longer his dream. At 19, he told his management that he needed a year break. Feeling like he had missed out on some of his childhood, Eoghan moved back home and did what every 19 years old does: he travelled, partied and most importantly, had fun. After the much needed break Eoghan came to a crossroads, he realised that money he had worked so hard for wasn’t going to last forever and he needed to plan his next move for a source of income.
It was a case of I have no education, what am I gonna do. The first thought was to go back to school, and it could be quite tough, especially coming from such a hype.
Eoghan went back to school to complete his GCSE’s and went on to study a degree in Music Production and Technology.
As can be expected, this major life change was met with fear for the former X Factor contestant. He is very forthcoming with sharing the anxiety he felt with participants of the Youth Empowered programme.
I tell them (participants) that you might feel down, you might have anxiety and feel depressed and might not feel good enough. You can worry about what people might people think of you. I always tell them what will people think of me going back to school, I was on the television in front of millions of people and everyone knew who I was, and now I’m back at school, will they (people) think that I’m a failure
Eoghan credits his friends and family with keeping him grounded throughout his journey.
They (family and friends) always reassured me that this might not last forever so keep your feet on the ground and take each day as it comes and enjoy it. That’s kind of the motto in life that we have.
Eoghan reiterates the fact that there are over one in ten unemployed young people in Ireland and states it simply isn’t good enough.
The young people, that's the future and regardless of their background or where they come from. They should be given the skills and support they need to realise their ambitions and life goals and that's exactly what youth empowered are trying to do.
The Digital Hub provides fundamental life and business lessons for young people, including courses in financial literacy, time management, project management, business negotiation and sale skills. It offers is a space for young people to find the right career path for them.
Speaking on how he found the right balance in his own life following, Eoghan is full of graduate for the opportunities to make a living in the entertainment industry doing what he loves.
I’m so lucky now, not only to do I still work within music, I still sing and gig, I’m on the radio, I work with Q radio in Belfast, I do maybe 5 or 6 gigs a week, I do weddings, drink receptions and I’m also in a wedding band. I do four or five different things within the entertainment industry. For me, I have that happy medium where I’m still making money and it's just not to the extreme that it was. I’m not being exposed.
Throughout the interview, Eoghan repeats that you don’t have to know what you want to do with your life at 16. We can't agree enough. Don’t stress or feel guilty if you don’t know what to do with your life, most people in their 30’s still don’t know.
To find out more about #YouthEmpowered or to register for the free Digital Hub online go to www.youthempowered.ie.