Supporting transition to work or further education
One way of viewing life is as a series of transitions – the first day at Infants, moving to secondary school, starting work or (finally) moving into retirement. For some, these transitions are straightforward challenges to be met and successfully negotiated with the minimum of fuss. For others, they can be far more difficult than those around them imagine. The transition to secondary school continues to be a major issue for many children; some simply never manage it, opting out of school at that stage generally with very negative impacts on their immediate prospects. For those at the other end of their working lives it is often those who have enjoyed and been successful in work who fail utterly to manage the transition to retirement.
A recent project supported by Walton Charity, Protected Work Experience, has been focused on the transition from school to work or further education for a small but important group of young people with severe disadvantages; these are young people with mental health problems, coming from dysfunctional families, involved with petty crime or in danger of sexual exploitation. These are young people for whom all change is a challenge and ‘simply’ going to college or into work is not an option.
Protected Work Experience was designed to meet some of the problems this group of young people experience when moving on from school and is quite unlike traditional work experience schemes. Firstly, the young people do a 12 week placement. This is not just having a look at a job sector but really getting involved; and that is the second strand as trainees were expected to do real, productive or creative work. Employers were compensated for their involvement with up to a maximum £1000 so they had the time and resource to genuinely mentor the young people across the scheme. The young people themselves were also provided with expenses dependent on their attendance, essentially being paid for their work.
Although only a small group of young people have gone through the scheme, the results have been quite extraordinary, with around 70% being in work or attending further education six months after the end of their placements. Even those that remain outside of work or education had clearly benefited from the experience and had progressed as a result of it. The cost of the project, less than £1000 per trainee, means the scheme exhibited extraordinary value for money as well as exceptionally good outcomes for those involved. Most of the employers involved said they would like to continue working on the scheme as they had found it very rewarding.
Protected work Experience is not a scheme for a large number of young people but it has shown itself effective in addressing the needs of a particularly difficult cohort. What is more, it is not expensive to run, though it does require some dedicated professionals to match employers with trainees and to ensure all sides are properly supported if things do go off the rails. This is just the sort of scheme, using innovative thinking to help support these young people across the transition from children to adults, that Walton Charity is delighted to support. It is also one which we think could be trialled in other parts of Surrey and indeed, across the country to see if it can provide similarly positive outcomes.
See our full evaluation report at: https://tinyurl.com/yd5rj24d
Brian Creese Community Projects Manager - Walton on Thames Charity