A young Derry man, who struggled to gain meaningful employment, has finally got his foot on the career ladder thanks to a new programme aimed at tackling youth unemployment.
Backed by the Lloyds TSB Foundation for Northern Ireland, the Advance Programme is a pilot project that finds work for young people not in employment, education and training.
Lee Quigley, 23, from the Creggan landed a new job as caretaker at St Columbs House in January and is now responsible for the many duties in the house from cleaning conference rooms, to setting up for conferences during the day and during the evenings, attending to groups day and night (split shifts).
He also helps out with café staff and sets up bedrooms for the arrival of residents.
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 Larne Enterprise Development Company Ltd (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.
Lee left St Peter’s High School after GCSE’s and went on to get a BTEC National Dip Health & Social Care Level 3. After completing the course, he applied for many jobs but rarely heard back from employers.
He heard about the Advance Programme and applied for the post at St Columbs. He was delighted when he got the job. “I felt like things were starting to work out for me at long last.
“The last year was difficult financially and it’s hard to feel happy when you don’t have the stability of a job.”
Brian Dougherty, director of St Columbs Park House, explained that the social enterprise was expanding as it had been marketing its conference business and increasing income from accommodation and café.
Since its renovation, business has increased by 43% and they are striving to increase that further. Mr Dougherty said: “The Advance Programme provides an excellent opportunity for young people to experience the discipline and structure of a working environment.
“It provides them with the opportunity to receive relevant training. Crucially it also gives them the opportunity to feel valued –to receive a wage which shows them that their hard work is being recognised and valued.”
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.”