These uncertain times continue to be challenging for all of us including the vulnerable young people we support. The young people Spear works with already face complex challenges both in getting into work and their lives at large. Now, as a result of Covid-19, their challenges have been magnified. According to the Youth Futures Foundation, the number not in education, employment or training (NEET) is currently above one million, the worst figure since 2015.
With increasing barriers and youth unemployment on the rise, the Spear Programme is needed now more than ever. Thanks to our funders, our work with our trainees has continued through the pandemic. Our Spear programme is now run digitally with over 80 young people joining our Programme since the beginning of 2020. Many of these young people have progressed into Spear Career, where our coaches offer them ongoing support over a 12 month period into employment, personal and professional development as well as engagement with a ‘Spear community’.
Consultation with our young people and partners following lockdown at the end of March showed the desire for continued support during that time. Spear Brighton continued to deliver Spear to existing trainees via group video and phone. Mock interviews and a virtual Celebration event were part of this. The coaches also supported the additional 70 young people on the Spear Career programme through 1:1 sessions on the phone/online.
The biggest challenges coaches saw were around establishing a routine and staying motivated, isolation, mental health as well as finding relevant work, further education or training options. Feedback showed that the Spear sessions helped reduce these negative affects of lockdown.
Feedback from trainees of these sessions also fed into adapting the Spear material for online delivery of Spear Digital. This adapted programme was then piloted in July.
The initial online pilot took place in July and comprised a combination of group and 1:1 coaching sessions delivered over eight weeks by two coaches via video and phone calls. The programme still retains its key aims of equipping young people with work-ready skills, mindsets, and resources. However, the curriculum has shifted emphasis to better address the current situation with a focus on managing early expectations in terms of type of job to aim for and keeping hold of a long-term mindset. Also included is a week dedicated to well-being and establishing healthy habits. Although this has always featured, historically it’s been woven throughout the normal six-week face to face programme.
In setting up the pilot we wanted to answer two main questions:
The answer to both seems to be a resounding yes with the feedback we have had so far.
In August we celebrated 8 of those trainees who completed the full online programme, 7 whom have secured jobs or further training opportunities already.
Hannah: “The Spear Programme came to me at a time when I did not see a future for myself; I didn’t see myself existing really…. without my Spear coaches and the other trainees, I wouldn’t be where I am now and I wouldn’t be going back into education. The Spear Programme has given me the chance to see a future and I’m really grateful for that.”
Learning from the pilot online programme was used to further enhance Spear Digital which was launched on 15th September. We had 13 young people graduated from the first cohort of this academic year with 4 already in work or training! We are now in our second cohort with a further 15 young people enrolled.
Candi, now in employment said this in the recent Online Celebration.
“Before Spear I felt so isolated and felt a failure. The aspect of community is what has kept me turning up to Spear each day. My confidence has grown so much – I really don’t think I’d ever be anywhere near where I am now if I didn’t join Spear.”
Our aim is to re-open our Spear Centres for face to face delivery as soon as it is safe to do so. With the new Spear Digital format there is now the flexibility to run a blend of Spear online and our in-person programme or purely Spear online. When not in lockdown, we continue however to offer 1-1s in person for any young person on the programme if they would like to.
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