This is what young people voting in Sheffield for the first time say are their priorities

Thousands of young people will be casting their vote for the first time in Sheffield next week, in a local election that is far from ordinary following an extraordinary pandemic year.

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 6:00 am
First time voter Isabel Hawksworth. Picture Scott Merrylees

Students at The Sheffield College, who will be marking an X on a ballot paper for the first time on Thursday May 6, have written for the Sheffield Telegraph about what their priorities are ahead of polling day.

Isabel Hawksworth, aged 18, is studying a journalism and social media communications course.

She said: “I think it is important for young people to get involved because it gives a chance for them to vote for who they think is right and it probably is the first time where they have been allowed to have their voice heard.

Sheffield is hosting local elections on May 6

“I think voting in the local elections gives people a chance to change what is happening in the area surrounding them, so is important. It matters to young people because we are having to grow up in a community where we do not get a say – until now, when we can vote.

“I also think that young people do not want to see the place where they grow up become a mess with litter and other problems – they want it to improve.

“There are lots of local issues that matter to me including litter problems and public transport. I live in a town on the outskirts of Sheffield so if I need to get to college for 9am, I’ve got quite a long journey and due to the pandemic, things like learning to drive for young people, have been put on hold.

“During the pandemic, I was furloughed and then laid off from a retail job at Meadowhall but I found a new part-time job working as a personal shopper at a major supermarket. I feel really fortunate about that. I start work at 6am and having that job and some income and structure has helped me.

“Studying in the pandemic has been hard, especially with juggling work. It is weird to only see your classmates through a screen and not have the in-person interaction with them. In a way, you feel isolated because you cannot see people who you previously saw often. However, I am really enjoying my college course and what’s happened during the last year because of Covid-19 has made me reassess what I want to do.

“Originally, I was planning to go onto university to study a degree. But now, I just want to get into the world of work as soon as I can. I’m planning to stay on at the College and complete the NCTJ Diploma in Journalism, a Level 3 qualification that helps you to get into the industry.”

Adam Upton, aged 27, is studying a one-year pre-access course at The Sheffield College that helps students progress to a Level three qualification.

He said: “At the moment, I’m undecided between voting for the Greens or Labour. I care about the environment. I think the Greens do have an impact at a local level. I don’t think people realise just how important local council elections are. It’s one of the most important things you can do, voting. It will be my first time voting in Sheffield Council’s elections.

“Local issues really matter – you only have to remember the issue of the Sheffield trees. Transport is an important issue for me as I can’t drive, so the regularity of the buses and the routes they take are exceptional. The trams are also brilliant in terms of their timetable and the places they go. The management of waste is brilliant with the separate bins, which are picked up regularly.

“Sheffield has really helped me. Since moving here, I have had a new start and am determined to make a success of my life despite the challenges of the pandemic. Studying at the college is the first time that I’ve been in education for 10 years. It’s been a huge adjustment for me, especially when I was advised that classes would be online. However, I’m really enjoying my course and I’ve met a lot of good people.

“My ambition is to progress onto the one-year health science access to higher education course at the College and, once I have completed that, apply to study for a degree in mental health nursing at Sheffield Hallam University.

“When I was younger, I was signed off work due to mental health issues. In Sheffield, I have received exceptional care and support that has inspired me to want to help others struggling, an issue that is particularly relevant given the impact of the pandemic. That’s why my long term ambition is to go into mental health nursing.

“In terms of the local elections, I believe committees could be forces of good. If those committees have experts on issues, then I think that the new committee system model will be a much more inclusive way of doing things.

"Having said that, the current system is good, and I strongly believe Sheffield Council is one of, if not the best, councils I’ve experienced in terms of support for society’s most vulnerable.”