Protected Work Experience
The programme was funded by a community grant from Walton on Thames Charity. The three-year project cost £10,816, with just under £5,000 paid to trainees and just over £6,000 to employers
Feedback from vulnerable young people engaged with Elmbridge Youth Support Service identified a need for more flexible work experience opportunities to bridge the gap between traditional two-week stints with fairly minimal input and lengthier traineeships and apprenticeships which come with more support but have entry requirements. The service went on to develop its Protected Work Experience scheme with 14 young people taking part in the project between 2014 and 2017.
Participants had a range of needs including major mental health difficulties and self-harm, and included young offenders and victims of sexual abuse. "Almost all had a severe lack of self-confidence and self-esteem, communications issues and fears about using public transport," explains Brian Creese, community projects manager at Walton on Thames Charity, which funded the scheme.
The youth support service matched young people with local employers willing to offer 12-week work placements with a lot of support. Employers could receive up to £1,000 over the three months to cover expenses. Young people were also offered remuneration and paid expenses such as transport costs. Where appropriate, placements were kept below a certain number of hours per week to avoid a reduction in benefits. An interview process was seen as important as it gave both parties a chance to meet and validated the placement as being a "job".
Placement costs varied but the average was about £770 per young person. Some trainees did not stay for the whole 12 weeks while others spent more time on the project due to false starts.
Ten of the 14 trainees - 70 per cent - completed their placements. In 10 cases employers were satisfied with their work and conduct. In 11 cases there was clear evidence of progression. Four trainees moved into education or training and at least eight progressed to employment. Participants gained vocational skills such as baking, graphics and video editing as well as increased confidence, responsibility, time management and sociability.