Overcoming barriers to work

Over the past four years I’ve been responsible for creating and implementing a programme to support local young people in becoming work ready.

From experience, I’d summarise being work ready as being able to develop a routine, getting to a place of work every day, often navigating public transport, which isn’t always easy. Motivation is another key factor, being able to adapt and learn new skills in a new environment and having the confidence to keep going.

Youth Programme 2018

This may seem straightforward to some, but for those who take part in our programme there are many complex barriers to developing those behaviours and therefore finding stable employment.

Our programme has evolved to address these barriers, supporting our young people in transforming their own lives. We talk to the people involved in our programme all the time, from those conversations we think there are several factors that contribute to its positive impact.

We care about potential not success. If people are eager and show dedication then that is what counts most. The course is structured to accommodate all learning styles, providing opportunities in classrooms, workplaces, volunteering posts and team building activities. This enables everyone to start to understand and believe in their strengths.

The course is split into two distinct sections of learning and working. We provide tangible work experience, which for many could be their first experience of being given responsibility and ownership in a job, bringing a real sense of identity and confidence. The stability and predictability of the course means that our young people can develop travel plans and routines, and our training goes beyond work, looking at life-skills such as money management, first aid and understanding the change curve.

We develop a secure environment, encouraging people to share their hopes and fears about the programme and the world of work. Through this experience we see a genuine bond evolve in the group which can go some way to overcome the social isolation issues they may have experienced.

There is no doubt that the transition into work is challenging, and our young people need time to engage with the valued, and often implicit, practices of the workplace, they also need to feel safe to make mistakes.

We’ve seen exceptional completion rates, which tells us that we are maximising the benefit for our young people. Over 75% of the young people who have participated in the programme have gone into paid work and half of those started their working lives with us at United Utilities. We develop lasting relationships with the people we work with and look forward to doing so into the future.

We are currently running our ninth intake with twelve brilliant and ambitious young people from across the North West. We are looking forward to celebrating their success at their graduation ceremony 12 October and to supporting them in their future careers.