Larne project finds paid work for jobless youths

Hazel Clements is enjoying her new job at LEDCOM, which was made possible through the advance programme, Included is Lawrence Greer, LEDCOM business advisor/ICT trainer. INLT 09-651-CON
Hazel Clements is enjoying her new job at LEDCOM, which was made possible through the advance programme, Included is Lawrence Greer, LEDCOM business advisor/ICT trainer. INLT 09-651-CON

A unique approach to tackling youth unemployment has helped a young woman secure a full-time temporary job at LEDCOM.

The advance programme is a pilot project that finds work for young people not in employment, education and training.

Hazel Clements, 26, began her post as trainee business development officer with LEDCOM (Larne Enterprise Development Company Limited) in January and is helping young people in a similar position as herself get a place on the advance programme.

The advance programme is currently filling 40 posts with young people, aged between 18 and 26, giving them 24 weeks’ paid employment in a range of social enterprises throughout Northern Ireland with the goal of transforming these short term posts into permanent jobs.

This £300,000 pilot project has been developed and managed by LEDCOM in conjunction with Enterprise Northern Ireland and funded by Lloyds TSB Foundation for NI in partnership with Lloyds Banking Group.

“The advance programme is a UK first for the foundation and the trustees will be keen to evaluate its impact to consider the potential to share the learning in other UK regions. We are delighted to support the Northern Ireland social economy, whilst also providing such a practical response to the scourge of youth unemployment,” commented Sandara Kelso Robb, executive director, of the Lloyds TSB Foundation for NI.

Hazel Clements, originally from Northampton, has an impressive academic record with a BSc (Hons) in Conservation Biology, but found it very difficult getting on the first rung of the employment ladder.

Hazel is typical of many talented, enthusiastic young people who find it almost impossible to get past the application stage of the employment process because of their lack of work experience. The Advance Programme addresses this by giving young people experience of full-time employment and giving them an opportunity to show what they can do.

She said: “It is hard to demonstrate what you have to offer an employer if you cannot get past the application stage of the process. Understandably people are unwilling to take on someone with zero experience when there are so many people with experience also looking for work, but it’s very demotivating when you can’t seem to see any opportunity to gain the experience that will help you get a foot in the door.”

She went through the application and interview process and was offered a job at LEDCOM, which currently employs 12 people and anticipates further expansion through new business opportunities.

Ken Nelson, Chief Executive of LEDCOM said: “We needed a person with a great attitude; someone who wants to work. For us, the right attitude is critical as skills can be taught. This programme gives us 24 weeks to see if the person is the right fit for our organisation and if we are the right place for them. Advance is a win/win for the prospective employee and employer as it allows an extended period of time to ensure both are a good match.”

Advance Programme Manager Audrey Murray said: “This programme has been incredibly successful so far in sourcing the right person for the right job. This is a very unique and special programme in that we are matching the skills and career aspirations with the needs of the social enterprise. Each social enterprise that is participating has a real job available and this programme is building capacity in the organisation allowing it to grow. We’ve been really impressed with the young people who have applied for this programme; they just want a chance to prove themselves.”

Hazel is delighted to have a job in which she can gain valuable experience and prove her ability.

She said: “The Advance Programme has helped me get a job! I’m appreciative of the chance to show what I can do and work in a social enterprise that is giving other people the same opportunity as me. I think it’s important that the positions have the potential for future employment, it makes the whole program more meaningful and gives you motivation to work hard.”

Hazel said the Exploring Enterprise Programme has given her an appetite for running her own business in the future: “The Exploring Enterprise program has made me think about different routes I could take, different businesses that would fit in well with my future plans, and generally just made things seem a bit more achievable.

“I would love to start a small business, possibly moving it abroad in the future. My passion is plants so I would love to make a living by growing healthy, sustainable food, or by helping others grow their own food. “