Help the young to help themselves

Ravi Chandiramani
Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Meeting the government's desire to achieve an explosion in apprenticeships is a tough task during a recession.

But the Youth Works scheme from London Youth, which is now backed by the Future Jobs Fund, is an eye-catching and innovative programme (see p9).

It has the double-whammy effect of giving unemployed young people from deprived inner-cities a six-month youth work placement. They, in turn, can become positive role models for the young people attending youth clubs - peers who might have had a similarly challenging upbringing and with whom they can identify. Funded by youth volunteering charity V, the scheme is focused on boroughs with some of the greatest needs: Greenwich, Hackney, Lambeth, Lewisham and Tower Hamlets.

The scheme, which enables the young apprentices to get a Level 1 foundation qualification in youth work, equips them with skills that boost confidence, self-esteem and personal development. They are taken away on residentials. If they go on to become fully fledged youth workers and go on to study Level 2 and 3 qualifications, that's great. If not, they have hopefully benefited some other young people in the process and come away with some transferable skills for life. Indeed, the programme includes group activities and games that look to improve the young apprentices' employability and interview techniques in more engaging ways than conventional methods.

There is, however, one sticking point tainting this rosy picture. The apprentices on Youth Works aren't paid anything other than expenses, and once they are on the programme, technically they are no longer entitled to Jobseeker's Allowance. This issue aside, the programme's philosophy of giving youth work skills to the young unemployed and developing them as role models is something to be championed, especially if it can generate a sense of community self-reliance.

But the 50 young people who will benefit from the programme as a result of backing from the Future Jobs Fund are just the tip of the iceberg.

In fact, there's no reason why such programmes should be confined to disadvantaged areas. The dreaded toll of one million young people unemployed, which will probably be confirmed within weeks, highlights the need for such solutions. Any programme that provides life skills to young people who are in a rut and enables them to help others around them should be supported thoroughly and wholeheartedly.

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