Telford College is playing a leading role in helping young disengaged people get back on track to regain confidence and gain qualifications. The issue of ‘NEETS’ (the government acronym which is shorthand for young people between the ages of 16-24 who are neither in employment, education or training) has made the national headlines in recent months as youth unemployment reaches unprecedented heights. As a response to this Telford College has embraced a new initiative that gets beneath the rhetoric to help real youngsters find their vocation in life.
Following last year’s successful pilot programme ‘Positive Pathways’ has been working with close on 50 marginalised youngsters at three outreach centres in the local community. Overseeing the project for Telford College is Sam Matthews an experienced lecturer who is clearly very passionate about the project and working with young people. “Many of these youngsters have found adapting to further education or training difficult. Some of the social issues they live with become more of a priority than education. As a result education has taken a back seat and they are not ready for employment with few or no qualifications” Sam explains.
‘Positive Pathways’ has been specifically designed to be delivered flexibly within a relaxed learning environment to help the youngsters feel comfortable in a non-threatening way. A range of courses are covered from Entry Level to Level 2 including subjects such as Confidence Building and Self-Awareness, Healthy Living, Career Preparation, Presentation Skills and Equality and Diversity. At the Ketley centre the group even have their own dedicated garden to work on.
“It’s a varied programme linked together to develop confidence. We have implemented different teaching strategies to manage this, such as discussion lead classes, which have been terrifically empowering to the students” explained Sam.
“I’m really optimistic that we can follow up the good work from the pilot where all the candidates have now been re-introduced to the main College community and many have secured part-time employment too. We have a dedicated passionate team who all want to see the student’s progress” enthused Sam.
17 yr old Miriam is a great example of what can be achieved in a short space of time. Miriam came to the group with anger issues and has found the group help her overcome these anxieties “the staff are amazing as they go an extra mile to help and support everyone”. It has also helped her regain confidence and focus on the future “I love Positive Pathways as it helps take my mind off other things and made me realise that I can achieve what I want and not feel like a loser”
Kita from Shifnal was in what she described as “not a good place in her mind” when she joined the group. Since then Kita has flourished and now feels optimistic about her future. “My confidence has really improved and everyone is very supportive. I’ve also made some great friends, it’s a very happy place!”
Two of the initial pilot group, Haley Rigby and Danielle Norton, now study full time on the Health & Social Care course and have also secured part-time employment. Danielle takes up the story “Sam helped us both find work and made us believe in ourselves that we could actually do it. She also encouraged us to go back to College”. The two students are also set to become ambassadors for Positive Pathways by sharing their experiences with the current group.
Last word to Sam “I’m really proud of what we are doing as everybody deserves a chance to fulfil their potential. I am pleased that the powers that be have recognised the importance of this programme and continue to commit sustainability so the College can play their part in the reduction of NEETS”