Princes Trust offers hope in West Norfolk

The 100th Prince Trust Team Programme transformed the play area for the Watlington Pre-School MLNF14am10031
The 100th Prince Trust Team Programme transformed the play area for the Watlington Pre-School MLNF14am10031
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Just over ten years ago Norfolk Fire Service teamed up with the Princes Trust to deliver a course designed to reach out to young people who had slipped through the employment and education gap.

Today, the 100th of those courses is being delivered in Lynn and well over 1,000 young people have been given the skills to find a positive future for themselves.

Louise Chapman found out what the Princes Trust Team Programme is all about and how it helps to turn lives around.

A few weeks ago Jordan South, 18, was signing on for job Seekers Allowance wondering where his future lay.

Now, half-way thought a 12-week Princes Trust Team Programme he has been invited to apply for an apprenticeship as a motor technician and is hopeful of success.

Jordan, of Thornham, said: “The programme has helped me by pushing my boundaries and making me realise what I can achieve.”

Jordan is one of eight young people completing the 100th programme being delivered by Norfolk Fire and Rescue.

The only qualification required to get on the course, which is free and doesn’t affect benefits, is being aged 16 to 25 and not in work or education.

The course is designed to ensure that all those who go through it become ‘work ready’ and a year after each course is complete 70 per cent of those who have taken part are in work, education or holding down a voluntary role.

Rob Littlewood, youth development manager for Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, who has been involved from the beginning, said the course can help young people overcome small or large hurdles preventing them from becoming a success.

He said: “One of the biggest issues is just getting them out of bed on time in the morning and into that routine!

“But some of our young people have baggage to deal with, be that they have been subjected to abuse of some kind, have drug issues or an offending background and we can signpost them to deal with those things so they achieve the ultimate aim of becoming work ready.”

The course includes an action-packed residential week, with activities such as rock climbing and kayaking, to build confidence and promote team work.

There’s a community project, where teams must select a worthy cause, plan how to help and fundraise to buy materials before a week of getting the job done.

Team 100 carried out an overhaul of Watlington Pre-school’s outdoor area, adding a mud kitchen area and den and repairing fencing amongst other things. To raise money for their projects teams do bag packs at supermarkets and car washes and usually generate up to £1,000 in a week.

There’s a three-week work placement for each individual, in an area they aspire to be involved in if at all possible. For many that leads to long-term opportunities if like Jordan, who has completed his placement at Audi King’s Lynn, they impress their employers.

Time is spent on interview skills, CV development and job searches. Then, at the end of the course, the team invites dignitaries and people they have met along the way, including representatives from the community groups they assist, employers from work placements and members of the course team to a presentation evening. Participants on the course stand up in front of the assembled crowd and tell them about their journey through the course.

Rob said: “It can be extremely rewarding to see somebody move on from someone who lacks confidence and career direction, in a very vulnerable place, to someone at the end of the programme who can stand up in front of between 30 and 40 and sometimes up to 100 people and talk with confidence about their experience, full of motivation and ready to take that next step.”

It has taken just over a decade to get to the 100th course but there is a suspicion the 200th course will be achieved much more quickly. For the success of them means that while there was originally only courses being delivered out of Lynn, now they are delivered,in partnership with the Princes Trust and College of West Anglia, from four other locations across Norfolk and, since quite recently, Wisbech, in Cambridgeshire, too. With three courses a year being run from each location a lot of lives are now being touched.

The 100th course is due to end on Friday, December 12.

Every successful participant leaves with a Certificate in Employment, Teamwork and Community Skills and, like Jordan, many of them also have either a firm or possible job offer and a whole new future to take away too.