Young people from Banbridge have been part of a unique new pilot programme, the first of its kind in the UK.
The scheme Advance Programme helps 40 young people aged between 18 and 26, get paid employment for 24 weeks in a range of social enterprises throughout Northern Ireland with the goal of transforming these short term posts into permanent jobs.
Three young women from Banbridge took part in the programme, Marianne Kearnes who worked at SlackPpress, Grace Clydesdale at Tonta CIC and Melissa Dalzell at Blythswood.
This £300,000 pilot project 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% 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% 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.
One of those who took part Marianne Kearnes said, “I graduated three years ago and applied for 200 jobs. You can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience without a job. Many people work at unpaid internships but financially that wasn’t an option for me.”
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 development.”