Fit for the role
Three social landlords have set up a ‘boot camp’ to instil the work ethic young tenants need to improve their job prospects. Richard Martin reports
It’s a massive problem that requires action: one in six young people aged between 16 and 24 are not in education, employment or training.
This travesty is a national one, but in Coventry, three social landlords have got together to put local youngsters through their paces and help young people into work.
Whitefriars, which owns 18,500 homes, 16,500-home Orbit Heart of England and 32,000-home Midland Heart, put forward £4,000 to fund a ‘boot camp’ in February.
In shape for work
The aim of the two-week programme was to prepare 16 to 18-year-olds for the job market by giving them physical and professional training and getting them to compete for apprenticeships at Whitefriars, Orbit, Coventry Council, and Lovell and MS Contractors.
‘We wanted a concept that would engage people, get them to understand the impact their behaviour was having on the wider community. [It would] try to change that mindset, but really to test them through a series of individual and team skills and ultimately to get them work-ready, so employers would see them as an ideal candidate,’ says Gail Cooper, anti-social behaviour manager at Whitefriars.
The associations identified 14 individuals, all but one of whom were tenants, who were known for anti-social behaviour or were not working, in education or training. Eleven completed the programme.
The camps were structured like a nine-to-five day, and attendees received help with CV writing and job interview techniques. Physical activities formed an important part of the programme: there was a training session on the first day of the camp and the West Midlands Fire Service ran another intensive afternoon workout.
The physical aspect helped the camp’s co-ordinators - project manager Ms Cooper and two mentors, Lee Stuart, a physical instructor from fitness company Go Commando Bootcamp, and Elaine Shirley, regeneration project officer at Midland Heart - to get to know what the young people were capable of achieving.
‘Throughout the course of the boot camp I was very impressed with the amount of effort and candidates put into everything, especially the physical aspects as they were particularly challenging,’ says Mr Stuart.
‘I was a recruitment instructor in the Royal Marines. The physical elements of boot camp taught the young people team building skills, helped improve their communication skills and it was an opportunity for us to see how they performed when faced with physical work they could come across in the workplace.’
This boot camp built on the success of an earlier, shorter, five-day course run by Whitefriars last August. It cost the organisation £1,500 to run the programme for 10 young people, eight of whom reached the end. These eight then competed for a year-long apprenticeship at Whitefriars.
The remaining seven unsuccessful participants then took a 12-week ‘foundation to learning course’ in plastering, and the two best performers were also offered apprenticeships.
The first boot camp was featured on the local ITV news, as well as in the press and on the radio.
This led to more local partners - such as the police service, which ran a drug awareness session and environmental regeneration charity Groundwork, which ran a cookery course - getting involved in the second boot camp.
Andrea Simmonds, who was a mentor during the session run by the West Midlands Fire Service, believes the camps were vital in turning around the fortunes of the young people.
‘Many of the young people wouldn’t have stood any sort of chance of succeeding if they had tried to attend an interview scenario without our support,’ she says. ‘You could just see them growing in self-confidence day by day.’
The boot camps have proved that, if given the right encouragement, young people can turn their lives around. There are now plans for a third boot camp in August this year and the partnership is also looking to introduce a similar scheme in Worcester.
‘A lot of these young people just need a little bit of direction and positive mentoring,’ sums up Ms Cooper.
‘We’re giving them a stepping stone, that right support to say: the world’s your oyster, but you’ve got to get out there and work hard for it.’
Brandon Kruger, 18, was made redundant earlier this year from a manual labour job at car manufacturer Jaguar. So when he was invited to attend the boot camp in February, he jumped at the chance. He excelled and was awarded a 12-month administrative apprenticeship with Whitefriars, where he will be paid £109.59 per week during his first six months, and £129.59 for his second.
He is now learning IT skills, assisting the enforcement team and will be mentoring young people on future boot camps. ‘I’ll be teaching them respect, making them realise what life is all about,’ he says.
Katy O’Beirne, 17, was well known to local police and anti-social behaviour teams for causing problems. She admits: ‘I was hanging out on the streets, causing a nuisance to the local residents and I had no direction in life.’
But once she was asked to join the first boot camp run by Whitefriars in August, Katy was determined to put her past behind her. She is now an apprentice for the landlord, assisting the team and dealing with customers.
I’ve learnt so much and I feel I’ve matured. I get up every morning to go to work and not hang around the streets,’ she says.