From education to employment

Young care leavers must be given better support to get into employment

Gary Thomas, CYP Service Director for the South, The Children’s Society

Supporting #CareLeavers into Work #ECLCM

For many young people getting their first job is a fairly routine experience. It’s usually a Saturday job and starts with a search, sending out CVs and filling in application forms, which a parent will probably help them with.

The next step is an interview, this may be a nerve-wracking experience, but again it’s likely parents will have helped them prepare, maybe ironed an outfit, given them a lift or the money to get there.

Parents may run through some possible interview questions or the young person may have had special lessons at school.

If the interview is a success there may be family celebrations, if not someone is there to pick them up and give them the confidence to try again.

For many young people a Saturday job is to give them some extra spending money for clothes, socialising and hobbies. They will not have bills to worry about or food to shop for.

First jobs are also a way to learn about the world of work, to find out about application forms, interviews, time keeping, employer expectations and more.

Three Times as Many Care Leavers are NEET

But what about children who do not fit the into the world described, those young people in care, who do not have parents to support them or had a positive school experience in which they were taught about employment.

It is these children that The Children’s Society and Catch22 think are being sorely let down. As they transition into adulthood they are not being given anywhere near the right levels of support when it comes to their employment and further education options.

In December the Department for Education released the latest figures around looked after children. It found 39 per cent of care leavers aged 19-21 are not in employment, education or training. This compares to just 12 per cent of other young people in the same age group. It is clear more needs to be done.

Both organisations have worked with this group of young people and understand how important it is that they are given the support, guidance and confidence to move forward.

Additional Barriers to Work

Many of these vulnerable young people will have experienced serious trauma in their lives, they won’t have had family around them to explain the process of employment. On top of the trauma they may be experiencing other issues with housing, their mental health and more. For these young people the idea of getting a job is huge.

Even if they succeed in doing so, there will be many more barriers and issues that these young people may still be struggling with.

It may be the threat of eviction or problem debt. The worries about being able to afford to buy the new shirt for work, the travel to get there or buy lunch. Then there’s socialising with colleagues and the alien nature of the office or workplace.

Specialist Career Coaches

These issues may cause the young person to seem disinterested and unreliable or an employer may simply think they are part of the ‘snowflake generation’ who don’t know the meaning of hard work.

The reality however couldn’t be further from any of this and it is organisations like The Children’s Society and Catch22 who understand this.

That is why we recently launched a brand-new collaborative project – Bright Light. The pilot scheme is being offered in four areas of London to local care leavers. Generously supported by the Clothworkers Foundation, it is a programme offering care leavers a full wraparound service that is designed to help them get into employment, further education or apprenticeships.

Young people who enrol onto the course will be provided with one to one support for up to 18 months. Career coaches will help each individual build their confidence, to understand employer expectations, CV writing, interview techniques, budgeting, the importance of time management and more.

The Value of Apprenticeships

The young people will also be helped to understand the different options that are open to them, such as apprenticeships and other in work training opportunities.

Apprenticeships are such a valuable way to open up industries to young people. However, many care leavers feel apprenticeships are not a viable option because they are too poorly paid, Bright Light aims to demonstrate this does not have to be the case.

The career coach will help ensure they have stable personal life and a good understanding of budgeting. The young person will also be given co-ordinated and sustained support during the 12 – 18-month period of the apprenticeship. The career coach will also try to work with the employer to ensure they have the right understanding and support in place.

At The Children’s Society we believe in care leavers, they have so much potential. Many of them have overcome huge issues and with the right support, such as the new Bright Light programme, we know they can become incredibly productive members of society.

Gary Thomas, CYP Service Director for the South, The Children’s Society

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