Supporting young people at risk of serious violence to access employment opportunities.
In early May 2021, Abianda was invited to attend the Creating Opportunities Forum (CoF) – Steering Group, chaired by Minister for Safeguarding, Victoria Atkins. The aims of the Steering Group are to provide expert advice to help shape and support the operational delivery and evaluation of the Creating Opportunities Forum programme. There were representatives from Government and third sector organisations such as Redthread, St Giles Trust and Catch22.
The initial meeting of the steering group asked four questions of attendees:
What are the main barriers that young people at risk of violence face to accessing employability support and opportunities?
How can we shape the Creating Opportunities Forum programme to address these barriers for young people most effectively?
What should be our specific asks of businesses, and how do we help overcome disincentives for them to participate?
How can we best evaluate the success of the programme?
After presentations from Movement to Work, Youth Futures Foundation and Youth Employment UK, discussion began on the above questions. Several points were made by attendees including Abianda:
There is a need to involve young people in these kinds of groups if we are to understand the barriers they face. They are the true experts on this topic.
Services must start with credible and reliable role models, ideally with lived experience, to build trusting working relationships with a young person before any other work is attempted. For young women who may have experienced trauma at the hands of men, the option of a female worker should be given.
There should also be representation of minoritized groups within the workforce, to ensure the young people can relate to a service.
Relationship work should come before employability outcomes. There was a recognition that progress is not linear, and young people who have
experienced violence have good reason to be distrustful of others. A strong foundation of wrap-around support is critical if a young person is to succeed in the programme. The importance of meeting basic needs was highlighted – a young person cannot fulfil their full potential in work if they do not have stable housing. There was also mention of the need for flexibility, consistency and persistence with this cohort of young people.
Monitoring and evaluation outcomes should be based around realistic small goals and measured against the young person’s perception of how much they had achieved against their initial hopes for working with the programme.
Formality can be a barrier for these young people accessing employment. CoF could work with employers to nurture a more community feel to recruitment. E.g. careers fairs where connection with staff can be built outside the formality of an interview; video applications as opposed to written forms.
Collaborative working is key and best practice in this area should not be confined to within a borough or district, but across LA areas. This is particularly relevant to this cohort of young people as they can be relocated quickly due to the risk of violence.
Government schemes encouraging employment of young people are incredibly complex and could be simplified.