“Now I’m on a 12 week course, before I move onto an apprenticeship for a year and then hopefully a job,” says 17 year-old Jordan Rigby. Jordan’s one of 207 young people to have joined the Triodos New Horizons programme which offers him a new window into education, to work and a path away from criminal activities.
Designed to help the most disadvantaged young people in Merseyside, Triodos New Horizons will recruit 4,000 young people like Jordan over the next three years. Many have parents who have also faced a range of personal and social barriers to gaining employment. These issues are compounded by environmental factors, with Liverpool especially affected by economic hardships and exceptionally high unemployment rates. With seven unemployed people in the city for every job vacancy, looking for work, especially for these young people, can be a dispiriting process.
“It’s not just about getting young people ready to step into a job, but ensuring they have the necessary qualities and skills and resilience to see it work.”
Although there have been a number of initiatives to help mitigate the youth unemployment in Liverpool, so far their success has been limited. “The Triodos New Horizons programme differs from previous projects in this area”, says Kieran Gordon, chief executive of the Greater Merseyside Connexions Partnership which designed the scheme.
“In the past programmes have responded to centrally driven priorities or designs; at times these have been less responsive to the real needs faced by frontline staff. “We recognised that those young people leaving care, who are young off enders or have learning difficulties and disabilities, are the most disadvantaged in an already difficult labour market. We designed our initiative based on established programmes with a good track record of delivering positive outcomes for young people. We’re building on what has been proven to work in the past and are being creative by adopting innovative approaches to promoting and enabling progression by helping build personal
The programme has a very hands-on approach, focusing on providing the tools the young people need to succeed in life. Joe Linnane, project manager explains: “A lot of the programme is concentrated around developing the self confidence of these young people.
Another point of difference is the way Triodos New Horizons is funded. The programme is financed by social investors from the private sector, who provide higher-risk funding, through a social impact bond. This means the financiers will be repaid on a payment-by-results basis only when the young adults meet pre-agreed educational, training and employment targets. Gordon points out, “constant change due to different political whims is not conducive for building sustainable systems of support.
With this social finance structure we are able to create good work independently of government funding. And if you can prove a good business case, then the government will be on board as well.”
So far the project is on track to meet its first targets and the first successes are becoming visible. After 18 months excluded from education, employment or training, Kieron Riley, aged 19, now works as an apprentice in an hotel: “I don’t think I would have had the job without the programme. It highlighted to me the areas I was a bit weak on and where I could improve. My self esteem needed to be upped a bit. They have helped me with clothes, my self confidence, the work and all sorts.”
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