As the school year comes to a close many young people will be considering their options. For some it is easy, courses at sixth form, college or with a training provider are already in place. They will continue to learn until they are 18, and for many, beyond that time. However, in Birmingham there are an estimated 2,700 young people aged 16 to 18 who are not in employment, education or training (NEET). For them, the options can seem limited.
Prospects, the education, employment and training company, have been working with Birmingham’s young NEET population supporting them to choose options that are right for them. Until the end of March young people could be referred to Prospects as part of the government-funded Youth Contract. The Youth Contract helps young people aged 16 or 17 with one GCSE, or fewer, who have disengaged with learning, are not in work or training and need extra support to get their lives back on track. Prospects works with young people, regardless of their qualifications, who have been in trouble with the police and are on remand, in custody or serving a community sentence and young people who have been in care.
Many of these young people have little or no confidence, low self-esteem and are in danger of becoming part of a feral subculture, living their lives alongside society but feeling outside of the system. The Youth Contract re-engages these young people, providing them with a mentor who becomes their safety line back into society. Encouraging them to move into work, education and training programmes tailored to develop their skills and talents, and remain in these programmes, reducing the likelihood for these young people to become long term unemployed in their adult life.
Each young person on the Youth Contract has a named mentor. The mentor supports the young person individually, building their confidence, inspiring them to try new experiences and develop their skills. Mentoring helps the young people become more independent and the individual approach ensures the young person is offered and encouraged to participate in training, learning that suits their needs.
For many young people a lack of confidence prevents them from trying new courses or learning provision. Mentors, working for Prospects, offer practical help with transport arrangements, finding spaces on courses, attending interviews with the young person and advocating on their behalf when necessary. This hands-on approach builds the young people’s confidence and ensures their mentor is there when small issues arise that could snowball into bigger problems for the young person.
Read how Prospects helped Hakim*
* Real name withheld