European Social Fund gives boost to Somerset young people

A project set up to help provide new opportunities for Somerset young people is being boosted by £563,000 from the European Social Fund (ESF).

With match funding from Somerset County Council, and key partners, £1.1m will be available for the innovative SomersetWorks scheme. It will help provide new opportunities for young people in school years 11-13 who are, or at risk of, finding themselves, Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET).

SomersetWorks builds on the existing good practice in the Somerset 14-19 Partnership, extending the range of provision available to young people on their journey from education to employment.

Despite the current coronavirus restrictions, progress is already being made on getting SomersetWorks up and running, recruiting to key posts and commissioning the right support services.

It is hoped that the project will be open to referrals from early August.  Young people in Year 11 will be identified and referred for additional support from the project via the work of the existing Transition Panels, whilst those in Year 12 and 13 will access the project via referrals from schools, colleges and Pupil Referral Units (PRUs).

Funding has been granted to support at least 1,600 young people over three years, with the project set to finish in Spring 2023.

Councillor Faye Purbrick, Cabinet member for Education and Transformation, said: “The funding will help us to support many young people to improve their education and employment prospects at a crucial time in their lives. It is an imaginative project and it’s impressive that so much preparatory work is being achieved during the current health emergency.”

SomersetWorks will provide young people in Year 11 with access to extra support including Talent Academies, linking with employers in key sectors; and specialist Transition Courses – short vocational programmes of 5 or 10 weeks, providing students with the chance to develop skills outside the traditional school environment, either in a college or another setting.

For those in Years 12 and 13, support will be targeted at students previously from Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) or those in mainstream education who are not able, or ready, to make the step into post 16 education or who have dropped out of college.

For these young people, SomersetWorks will provide more support through a new countywide Transition ‘College’, staffed by a dedicated Transition College Head and Post 16 Transition co-ordinator.

Young people’s needs are assessed before the Transition College offers learning programmes, designed to help students move on to college or work in the following term.  They will be referred outside of the project to achieve appropriate qualifications.

They will also get advice and support, and access to wellbeing and resilience workshops, with the aim of improving the young people’s long-term education and employment prospects.

Note: The project is receiving up to £563,000 of funding from the European Social Fund and Youth Employment Initiative as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England.  The Department for Work and Pensions (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for the England European Social Fund programme. Established by the European Union, the European Social Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support skills development, employment and job creation, social inclusion and local community regenerations.  For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.