Six young people from Larne have been taking part in a unique new pilot programme which has achieved a 91 per cent success rate in finding employment.
Hazel Clements and Jenna Patterson worked at LEDCOM, Kyle Bremmer and Vikki Robinson, at AEL, Paul McClean, at East Belfast Mission and Shannon Finnigan at UCIT.
The “Advance” programme, which has just been completed, was offered to 40 young people aged between 18 and 26, giving them 24 weeks’ paid employment in a range of social enterprises throughout Northern Ireland.
The aim was to transform short-term posts into permanent jobs.
Qualifications of participants ranged from none to university degrees but no job experience.
The £300,000 pilot project, the first of its kind in the United Kingdom, was developed and managed by LEDCOM in conjunction with Enterprise Northern Ireland and funded by Lloyds Bank Foundation for NI in partnership with Lloyds Banking Group.
“This programme not only gave young people a chance to gain great experience and to secure a permanent job, it also gave a boost to the 27 social enterprises who found employees with new ideas, energy and vibrancy,” explained programme manager Audrey Murray.
“We had hoped to achieve a 50 per cent success rate in finding permanent employment for these young people but it’s a testament to their ability and drive, and the support and mentoring we were able to give them, that in total 91 per cent are now working. Businesses sometimes need to take a chance on young people and see the bigger picture.”
Sandara Kelso-Robb, executive director, of Lloyds Bank Foundation for NI, said: “This was a new concept, it was a risk-taking concept and it’s one we’ve now proven can work. This funding of £300,000 is the single largest award given in the foundation’s history but it marries the areas of education, employment and enterprise that we have always supported.”
Before taking up their posts, each of the young people received personal mentoring support and completed Enterprise Northern Ireland’s Exploring Enterprise Programme, which gives them a recognised qualification in business studies, helps develop their entrepreneurial skills and prepares them to take up employment.
The participating businesses are companies that are seeking to grow and expand staff numbers; they will be ideally placed to bring in innovative young people with energy and creative ideas.
Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster said: “The Advance Programme is a wonderful initiative offering young people an opportunity to develop their skills and progress their career developme. All those involved have worked extremely hard and have demonstrated a high level of commitment and professionalism, with 91 per cent of participants now in permanent employment.
“Young people are our future and have an important role to play in growing our economy. I would like to commend all those involved in the implementation of this project which ensures that we continue to recruit and retain the most talented of people.”