From education to employment

FE News speaks to Beresford Dawkins

Approximately 220,000 teenagers are currently not in education, employment or training, according to the recent LSC Progress Report [2006].

Representing a 1% increase on the previous year, this figure accounts for a significant proportion of 16+ learners who have dropped out of traditional streams of education and training.

However, a group of community workers in Birmingham have come up with a novel way of reaching out to disaffected youngsters through an innovative new scheme ““ with startling results.

“It was a youth service initiative. We know that there are young people who are not engaging in traditional learning, so we decided to test the idea”, explains Beresford Dawkins, Principal Officer at the Birmingham-based Oaklands Young People Centre.

Offering courses in Basketball Coaching, Filmmaking and Dance, the centre opens its doors in the evenings at more flexible times, to attract more learners.

Beresford explains: “We ran a pilot on a music group, with over 20 young people who attended, and got them accredited through the music course. So we thought we would test the courses out with a pilot at one of our youth centres, and called it the “Beyond Midnight University”. We had the first opening night with over 120 young people turning up. The courses we have put on have all been oversubscribed”.

Additional qualifications are available in Music Technology and Media, and all courses are free, ranging from 30 to 120 hours.

“The courses are running until March, and I feel they are good learning situations for young people. They are supported and accredited by South Birmingham College”.

“I personally think young people love the idea and courses on offer ““ that is why they are oversubscribed. Young people clearly want learning opportunities that suit them. Not that it just needs to suit them, but it has to be relevant to their needs; things that inspire them and that they”re interested in”.

“I think we have to recognise that there are some of our young people who are not engaging in traditional services and if we can come up with some really creative ideas, such as the “Beyond Midnight University”, I find that young people will gravitate towards it”.

Clearly satisfying the current climate of demand-led and learner-driven services, Beresford was keen to point out the importance of meeting the student needs, at whichever level: “I also think we should be posting young people ““ once we engage with them, say in the University, then clearly there is an opportunity, once the trust has been developed, to help pass them onto traditional services. The most important aspect is to engage with them first; whatever level they want to engage at, that’s where we must meet them, and from there, try and post them into traditional services”.

On the issue of disaffection: “There are lots of reasons ““ you”re talking about 16+. These are young people that have gone through some kind of formal education, and are still feeling not fully satisfied by those services. It’s important to recognise that ““ once you”ve engaged with the student, you can start up a dialogue, and let them help us shape whatever service they require”.

And what does the future hold for the “Beyond Midnight University”? “Because of the demand of the courses on offer, we”ll evaluate how this process has gone, sit back down around the table with our partners, and then have a look at how we will continue to put more courses like that together. We can see if we can encourage other centres to do similar projects as well”.

“The Oaklands Young People Centre is a traditional sort of youth service, the profile of which we”re trying to raise. On top of that, it has some quality equipment ““ we are trying to make it a particular centre of excellence”.

“We should be opening the centre up. A lot of our services shut at 5 o”clock, but you always hear complaints that young people are out on the streets, coupled to a lot of anti-social behaviour. We have really good quality centres that we could be opening and in the daytime, you have all the facilities young people have access to, so why shut them down at night?”

For more information on the “Beyond Midnight University”, click here.

Vijay Pattni.

Have you seen a quality initiative to help push the sector forward?

Email the Editor: [email protected].

Related FE News articles:

Brown Backs School Leaving Age Rise ““ 01/02/07

LSC Progress Report ““ 16/10/06

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