Nationally young people leaving care have significantly poorer outcomes than their peers but a Somerset project to get care leavers into work experience has successfully helped 66 young people in its first twelve months.
The project, named ‘Making a Difference’ has been led by Targeted Youth Support (TYS) who work with vulnerable young people aged 13-19, who are not in education, employment or training.
Cllr Frances Nicholson, Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: “Nationally young people leaving care have significantly poorer outcomes than their peers in relation to education, training and employment. In Somerset, over 50 per cent of care leavers are not in education, employment or training (NEET). The ‘Making a Difference’ project aims to narrow the gap between these young people and their peers, and focuses on finding supportive work placements with local employers.
“This project helps get young people ready for work by building their confidence, improving their application and interview skills, and providing short work experience placements in sectors they are interested in, with employers who are supportive and understand the needs of the young person.
“Since the project started 27 young people have completed work experience placements and 45 young people have been supported to develop their employability skills. As a result of the scheme, eight young people have got a job, two have started college, one has gained an apprenticeship placement and almost half of the young people engaged in the project have (or are on track) to achieve a certificate for an ASDAN Experience of Work Award.
“We are really pleased to be working in partnership with the Taunton Vale Rotary Club on this project and we have already expanded the project across the county and hope to link up with other Rotary Clubs.”
The Taunton Vale Rotary Club has played an active role in bringing partners together at the start of the pilot project and have been (and will continue to) speak to business contacts to find work placements for the young people.
Nigel Birkett, from Taunton Vale Rotary Club, said: “We have always done lots of fundraising but we wanted to do something more practical to help our community. After hearing about the high number of care leavers not in education, employment or training (NEET) we thought we could help these young people and find valuable work experience placements for them. We are proud that we have been able to help get the project started and make a difference to young people’s lives by helping them gain work experience.”
Matthew*, a care leaver from Taunton who gained a work experience placement via the project, said: “I went for it because I knew it would help me. It’s given me a qualification, more confidence and I am now a better person in the work environment. It has meant I’ve had something to focus on and I’m not sat around all day. It’s given me ambition and I know I am ready for work now.”
Matthew’s employer said: “It has been a pleasure supporting the Making a Difference project and a treat to work with young people who want to work, they are our workforce of the future. We don’t have any job vacancies at present. However, we would like Matthew to complete an application form so we can contact him when a vacancy becomes available. I am happy to act as a referee for Matthew and can offer continued support to the very worthwhile Making a Difference project.”
*Please note: Matthew’s name and location has been changed to protect his identity.
Work placements have been provided by local businesses in motor mechanics, elderly care, garden retail, NHS, hair and beauty, DIY retail, youth work, animal care, fashion retail, house keeping and catering.
Cllr Nicholson continued: “We need more businesses to sign up to take a young person on a work placement. Our young people have shown an interest in having a placement in painting and decorating, engineering, football coaching, warehouse work, retail and care homes. If you think your business can offer a placement to a care leaver please get in touch.”
For more information contact Heidi Denman from the Targeted Youth Support (TYS) team on 07899067968 or email: Hdenman@somerset.gov.ukor call the TYS Office on 01458 440820.