Prospects is connecting young people in Milton Keynes who have offended, or are at risk of offending, with local entrepreneurs who support them in taking positive steps towards a more positive future. The social action project is funded by the Cabinet Office, through its Vulnerable and Disengaged Young People’s Fund.
The programme involves intensive one-to-one sessions delivered by volunteer mentors from the business community, complemented by hands-on activities such as shadowing and enterprise challenges. The mentors encourage and motivate young people’s interest in enterprise and raise awareness of local opportunities. The programme has been adapted and delivered in local schools to small groups of students.
Steve* is one young man who has benefited from the project. He is 18 years old and had just completed a six month prison sentence when he enrolled onto the mentoring programme. Steve struggled to find work because of his criminal record and lack of qualifications. He was negative about his future, believing he would be stuck in low paying jobs throughout his life, but was interested in ICT and wanted to work in an office. Prospects connected Steve with a business mentor who had a vacancy for a Customer Service Adviser with his company in Bedford. The mentor was impressed with Steve, thinking he was a young man who had made a mistake and was trying to rebuild his life.
The mentor said: “My take is that Steve would have been unlikely to apply for a job in a firm such as mine, and even if he had, would probably have been unsuccessful. The project’s assessment of him and subsequent advocacy persuaded me to give him a chance, and after a period of adjustment he is doing quite well, working on his NVQ and putting in a good day (nearly) every day. The project stayed close to him, helped with ‘hiccups’ and made us aware of grants, which while not critical are certainly useful. As a result, even if he leaves us, he will have a good reference, experience and some qualifications. His life chances are very different now from a year ago.”
Steve* has been working since June 2014 and is undertaking a Level 2 qualification in customer service.
Partners involved in the project include the local Youth Offending Team and Milton Keynes Christian Foundation. The Open University is independently evaluating participants’ achievements, behaviour and outcomes to assess the benefits of the project.
To date 63 young people have benefited from the project, with 11 moving into education, employment or training (EET) and a further 36 sustaining their EET placements.
*Not his real name.