Over the next six months, 24 young people from Derry will be given a big step up in the worlds of employment and education by taking part in an innovative job training programme.
The Youth Works initiative has already been piloted in Belfast and was officially launched at Ebrington on Friday by Derry’s Mayor Colr. Kevin Campbell. Speaking ahead of the launch, Youth Works Assistant Manager Joanne Chambers said the idea was to target young people who may have left school without any formal qualifications, and, as a result, struggled to gain employment.
Targeting teenagers in commununities suffering economic disadvantage, the programme hopes to make a real and practical difference to the lives of those who take part. The Youth Works concept has been developed by the Department of Education, International Fund for Ireland and is managed by the Youth Council for Northern Ireland. Derry based Opportunity Youth will roll the programme out in the North West.
“The hope is that we can help these young people to get recognised qualifications and help them develop further within training and further education. It’s an inclusive programme which reaches out to both sides of the community. The programme takes in peace and reconciliation, personal development and one to one mentoring,” says Joanne.
Joanne also explained how basic skills are a key element of the Youth Works initiative.
“We’ll be focusing quite a bit on numeracy and literacy and looking at the different barriers to learning. The aim is that these young people who for one reason or another have come through the education system with those skills lacking, will be able to pick up where they left off. That then makes it easier for them to apply for courses and move forward with the hope, eventually of gaining employment.”
The course itself is aiming to help the young people involved in the most practical of ways.
“It’s about filling those gaps on application forms,” says Joanne. “Over the months when the young people take part they’ll be able to build up a career portfolio.”
Dr Adrian Johnston, Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland, said: “Youth Works is making a real and lasting difference; supporting social change and helping to meet the challenges of post-conflict renewal across Northern Ireland and now in the North West.
“Sadly there are a growing number of young people facing personal and social barriers and who need assistance to advance their futures. This important initiative offers an alternative opportunity for young people to build a more positive future and reach their full potential.
“The Youth Works Programme is part of the International Fund for Ireland’s Sharing in Education Programme which aims to facilitate integration, promote understanding and improve community relations in Northern Ireland and the southern border counties. Programmes like this are at the heart of the Fund’s efforts to build a more shared and peaceful future on the island of Ireland.”
Anne-Marie McClure, Chief Executive of Opportunity Youth, attending the launch event in Ebrington Square today, added: “Youth Works aims to do exactly what its name suggests –to empower young people with skills, confidence and understanding to make the most of life’s opportunities.
“The educational, social and economic barriers faced by young people are well documented, but they offer great potential to infuse society with their abilities, leadership, energy and eagerness.
“Youth Works offers a unique platform for young people to understand their past and strive towards a better future. Opportunity Youth intends to help them and harness their talents to make a positive contribution to society. We are grateful for the support of the International Fund for Ireland, the Department of Education and the Youth Council for Northern Ireland as we strive to accomplish this vitally important task.”
David Guilfoyle, Chief Executive of the Youth Council for Northern Ireland, speaking at the event said: “Youth Works isn’t just another training programme for young people in the North-West. At its core is peace and reconciliation. So more than bringing young people together to gain qualifications, it actively explores their sense of identity and culture and helps them recognise and respect diversity. The project demonstrates the valuable contribution youth work can make to the lives of young people and the communities they live in.”