Robert Gray

Robert Gray

How an intern supports business start-ups for young people in Hull – HYST

In 2016, Robert Gray started his Time to Shine internship at Hull Youth Support Trust (HYST), part of a national charity, the London Youth Support Trust (LYST).

HYST provides young entrepreneurs, aged 18 to 30, with subsidised office space for a two-year period within a dedicated office building, OneSixOne in Hull. In addition to office space, the entrepreneurs receive one-to-one, personalised business advice, skills development and support to ensure a positive and successful start for their new businesses.

Robert came to HYST with a degree in Photography from Manchester Metropolitan University and work experience in various paid and voluntary roles in Marketing and Events, Social Media and Graphic Design.

The focus of Robert’s role, as an intern, was on outreach and engagement with young people and creating and maintaining relationships with partner organisations who support HYST’s target group. These partners include Together Women ProjectThe John Cracknell Youth Enterprise Bank, local schools and Job Centre Plus.

As early as June 2016, it was clear from his manager’s report, that Robert was having a significant impact on the organisation:

“… I cannot fault his commitment and dedication to HYST and what we are trying to achieve here in Hull … Rob has taken on all the tasks that I have set him with passion and hasn’t been frightened to challenge decisions either, which is extremely refreshing for a young man … He instantly understood my vision and then set about putting that vision to work for the benefit of HYST.”

Over the last year, Robert has developed his business skills and gained in confidence both professionally and personally. As part of the Time to Shine programme, Robert volunteered to be part of an Action Learning set where he developed listening and questioning skills and also accessed peer support. Early on, Robert reported on the value of the Action Learning set:

“… This was very helpful in terms of realising that we are all in the same boat and all face a lot of the same problems. Whilst working alone it is easy to believe you are struggling with certain aspects of your role and that everyone else is doing perfectly well. The truth is we all have different aspects of the role we find enjoyable or difficult.”

Robert’s health has provided a challenging backdrop to the internship as, after years of tests and consultations, he has recently been diagnosed with M.E. (also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). Robert is learning to live with a long-term condition that can cause problems with concentration, energy levels and mental health. Talking about his health issues as part of Action Learning has proved useful for him and for other interns, with wide-ranging discussions about ‘hidden’ illness, how to look after yourself and how to support others at work and home.

As is often the case, the reality of Robert’s role at HYST has proved to be broader than originally defined. He has led on outreach, as planned, but has also developed the branding and marketing materials for HYST, as well as working closely with Mike Thompson – the new centre manager – to turn the idea of a Youth Support Trust in Hull to the reality. This involved negotiating use of a building with Hull City Council over a protracted period, to being in the position where the building is pretty much fully-occupied and HYST is ready to look for another building.