• | News | Participant stories

    Job readiness starts with life skills

    Venture Trust's work to improve the employability of participants was featured in The Scotsman this month.

    Employability Manager Stuart McMillan highlighted the fact while youth unemployment has fallen in Scotland, thousands of young people still remain long-term unemployed because they lack the very basic life skills needed to begin working towards securing and sustaining a job.

    Many young adults referred to Venture Trust have come from life circumstances where they are not given the best start. They are often dealing with one or more of the following: poverty, alcohol and drug addiction, poor family relationships, mental health issues, learning and housing issues. The majority also have had little or no work experience.

    There are many agencies working to help unemployed people find work. However the individuals engaging with these other agencies already have enough 'soft' skills to enter employment and training. Who is there to help those without the basic tools necessary to begin training, studying or working? The people Venture Trust help first require significant investment to achieve greater stability – addressing chaotic or destructive behaviours to become ready for training and employment so that they can sustain a job.

    There is a considerable evidence - highlighted in Government research - to suggest that being unemployed when young leads to a higher likelihood of long-term ‘scarring’ in later life in terms of pay, high unemployment, fewer life chances and poorer health. These effects seem to be stronger for younger people and those with less education. Through Venture Trust's employability programmes like the CashBack Change Cycle and our core programmes, participants are gaining the basic skills to have a better and more realistic chance of moving towards employment.

    Read the article in The Scotsman here.

  • | News

    Venture Trust interviewed by BFBS Forces Radio

    Our Director of Funding & Contracts, Malcolm Jack, was interviewed last week by Forces Network for an article on its website about Venture Trust’s work with ex-service men and women for the Soldiering On, People’s Choice award nomination. The article can be found here:

    Malcolm then headed off down to London for an interview with BFBS Forces Radio this morning. The interview, and a further interview for Facebook Live, can be found here: (BFBS radio interview) (Forces Network Facebook Live interview)

    Please like and share on Facebook or twitter if you can. The articles are to raise our profile as one of the finalists for the People’s Choice award at Soldiering On. Please take a moment to vote if you haven’t done so already. It takes approximately 30 seconds and could really help us to reach the right people for our ex services programmes. You can vote here:

  • | News

    Venture Trust nominated for The People's Choice Soldiering On award

    Venture Trust is delighted to announce that it has been nominated as a finalist in the Soldiering On People’s Choice award. Nomination for the People’s Choice award, which is voted for by the public, was done in recognition of Venture Trust’s work with veterans through its Positive Futures programme. The Soldiering On awards will be held in London on April 20 where the results will be announced.

    To date, the Positive Futures programme, funded by Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), has supportetd 173 veterans since the first course began in spring of 2016. With additional Libor funding to 2021, the programme can engage with a further 180 ex service men and women.

    The Positive Futures programme helps individuals with any military experience, of any age, who are struggling with the transition to civilian life. It is a three phase personal development programme that centres around a wilderness journey in the Scottish Highlands.

    Once referred to Venture Trust and assigned an outreach worker, the participant begins the first phase of the programme. They are assessed and attend various meetings and workshops, one-to-one and in groups, to ascertain the best course of action.

    Using the outdoors as a catalyst for change, Venture Trust supports its veterans to utilise the skills learnt within the military, and redeploy into a civilian environment. The wilderness journey is the light bulb moment for most people: they are away from negative influences, from phones and social media, drugs, alcohol etc, and close to nature which gives a different perspective. It allows the participants time and space to take stock and work out what they want from life, and it gives them the confidence to start achieving their goals.

    The participants may have learnt vital skills, and experienced a shift change mentally while on the wilderness journey, but things can be very different when they return to their own environment, and so this is where Venture Trust really comes to the fore. In the final phase of the programme, the participants begin to make those positive changes, and put those skills into action with the continued support of their outreach worker. For up to 18 months, they are encouraged to achieve their aims; this might be getting a job, finding a home, building bridges with family, or kicking addiction etc.

    Amelia Morgan, Chief Executive Officer at Venture Trust comments, "Nomination in the People’s Choice award means that we are getting it right. Positive Futures programme is getting results; supporting veterans to transition to civilian life, successfully, and sustainably. We hope that this nomination shines a light on the issues facing veterans in civilian life and that some people can struggle. Our former service men and women have given so much, it is only right that collectively we work to support every individual needing extra help. So every vote for Venture Trust is one step towards supporting another veteran."

    Venture Trust needs your support. It takes no more than 30 seconds to vote. Venture Trust needs you to vote for its Positive Futures programme in the Soldiering On People's Choice award. Winning the award will help Venture Trust to raise the profile of its Positive Futures programme, and ensure that it reaches those most in need of its help. Please click here to make your choice:

    Please share on your social networks, and with colleagues and friends. Help Venture Trust to provide much needed support to veterans.

    For more information on the Positive Futures programme, please click here.

  • | News | Participant stories

    From domestic abuse survivor to inspiring young leader - Cassie's Inspiring Young Futures journey

    Levels of domestic abuse in Scotland have been described as “unacceptable” by the Scottish Government with victims often too afraid to report the abuse and seek help. The personal and social costs of domestic abuse are significant. It is now accepted that abuse is often a factor in the development of depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders. The results can be loss of confidence, social isolation, the loss of a job and much more.

    Cassie, just 20 at the time, was a victim of domestic abuse from her partner and suffered from the resulting trauma.

    She lost her job and experienced severe anxiety and panic attacks. Cassie was unable to function like the young woman she had been before. However, she was brave enough to seek help.

    Working with Women’s Aid, Cassie was referred to Venture Trust’s Inspiring Young Futures (IYF) programme. The programme, funded by Scottish Government, Inspiring Scotland, the European Social Fund and The Big Lottery Fund, is designed for young people experiencing challenging life circumstances who want to make positive life changes. Those circumstances might include involvement in offending, anti-social behaviour, history of substance misuse, homelessness or poor family relationships.

    Cassie felt the programme would improve her mental health and increase her self-confidence and resilience, particularly as she needed to testify in court against the man who had abused her. Cassie also felt that she wanted to develop and build positive relationships with her peer group - including men - to help her overcome her negative experiences. Longer term she also wanted to develop a wider range of skills, and be able to go back to work.

    The three phase programme includes community-based support: participants benefit from a dedicated one-to-one worker before and after embarking on an eight day wilderness journey in Scotland. Ongoing support enables participants to consolidate their new skills, boost confidence, motivation and aspirations, and benefit from opportunities in education, employment and training.

    Cassie developed a positive and trusting relationship with her Venture Trust outreach worker and was soon attending one-to-one sessions, group meetings, and reflective learning experiences where her strengths were quickly identified. Cassie and her outreach worker developed a training plan tailored to her individual needs and the goals and positive changes she wanted to make in her life. During Phase 1, Cassie started working towards her SQA Personal Development Level 3 Award.

    The second phase of the IYF programme saw Cassie embark on the wilderness journey. This gave her time and space away from daily pressures where she could develop skills in problem solving, goal setting, relationship building, dealing with stressful situations, managing emotions, and developing personal routines. Completing the outdoor activities during the highland winter created challenging and testing situations, in which Cassie thrived and strengthened her abilities to make choices, and manage her behaviour. The course structure also encouraged Cassie to take on and practise individual roles within the group such as morning meeting facilitator, motivator, navigator, and clean camp supervisor.

    During one-to-one sessions with her Venture Trust field team development trainer, Cassie reflected on strategies she could use in these different roles and situations, and how to transfer those strategies to her day-to-day life. She was able to practise these life skills in a safe space with the support of Venture Trust staff and other course participants, whilst working on her own personal development goals and a revised personal action plan for use back home.

    In the months since returning from the course, Cassie has continued to work closely with her outreach worker. She has been building her skills set through further training, work experience and volunteering, while continuing to access support from Venture Trust, and has even completed her Level 3 SQA Personal Development portfolio. Soon after return from the wilderness phase, Cassie secured a work placement with HM Revenue & Customs in Edinburgh, which allowed her to develop her existing administrative experience, as well as maintaining a stable and positive routine.

    In addition, Cassie was accepted to do an intensive peer mentor training course delivered by Venture Trust and Move-On, which enabled her to learn about the role of a mentor. She now supports other young people about to embark on the IYF programme.

    Cassie’s experiences with Venture Trust have also shaped her future. She is pursuing a career within the care field and has started a Level 6 Working with Communities course at Edinburgh College. And to repay Venture Trust for supporting her to change her life, Cassie is completing her college work placement at Venture Trust.

    “If it wasn’t for Venture Trust, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I was in a bad place and really needed support to help me get my life back on track. Venture Trust has done that,” Cassie said.

    “The course helped me build my confidence, learn new skills and do the things I want to do.”

    With her newly developed skills and confidence and her engagement with her college course, Cassie is on track for her chosen career path. A path that will one day allow her to help other young people who are suffering from abuse, depression, anxiety or other challenging life circumstances.

    “The impact Venture Trust has had on me, I want to have that impact on somebody else who has been in similar situations.”

  • | News | Participant stories

    Fighting back from the brink - Harry's Positive Futures journey

    Carnage and the devastation surrounded 18-year old infantryman Harry Marshall. When the smoke and dust cleared Harry was faced with two men lying dead and almost half a dozen more severely injured. He had survived a deadly explosion involving three anti-tank mines. Even though he was incredibly close to the blast Harry managed to walk away physically unscathed. But then he had to deal with the casualties alone for over an hour before help arrived.

    While Harry may have escaped physical injuries from the explosion in Bosnia that killed his comrade and a local man, the mental injuries from such a traumatic experience eventually caught up with him.

    Now with the help of Venture Trust’s Positive Futures programme – funded by the Forces in Mind Trust – Harry is fighting another battle to reclaim his shattered life. The Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), is a £35 million funding scheme run by FiMT using an endowment awarded by the Big Lottery Fund.

    The three phase programme provides specialist support to ex-service men and women struggling with the transition to civilian life.

    “It must have traumatised me more than I noticed,” Harry says 20 years later.

    In 2003 Harry was medically discharged from the armed forces. He left after having attempted suicide and bouts of uncontrolled depression. He was put on 6 months leave and then Harry was on “Civvy Street”. “Back then there wasn’t really any ongoing support for ex-servicemen,” Harry says.

    Life on Civvy Street appeared to be going well for Harry. He used his previous skills as a plumber to run his own construction company and he got married.

    But the Black Dog was lurking.

    “In the beginning of 2012, I found myself having nightmares, crying inappropriately. I was feeling sick and horrible,” Harry recalls.

    Life began to spiral out of control.

    “I separated from my wife, I lost my family, the company closed down and I was in a very dark place with depression. I moved off the grid. I went to live in the woods. I feared everything going wrong in front of the people I loved.” Harry made the woods his home for 9 months. “I was alone and suicidal,” he says.

    Eventually Harry found the courage to “make a call” for help. When he contacted military charity Combat Stress, it was the start of a long journey from out of the wilderness and back into society.

    “I managed to get housing. A roof over my head.”

    It was also the first time since that tragic day back in Bosnia many years ago that Harry was finally diagnosed with severe Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

    “There was a reason for my anxiety and depression. And it was caused by loss and guilt from all those years before,” Harry says.

    Harry undertook 13 weeks of residential therapy for trauma. He also began volunteering with charities. “I felt like I was making progress but I also felt like I was in a safe zone. I needed to get out of the safe zone. I focussed on getting back into the community.”

    This is where Harry was referred to Venture Trust and the Positive Futures programme.

    “I met Clare, my outreach worker, and she has been by my side all the time. I was continuing to struggle and go through hard times but she was there and we would meet up once a week.”

    The initial support and work with Venture Trust prepared Harry for his wilderness journey. It set and established his goals and ambitions. “My goal was to see if I could live back in the community with my condition.”

    The five-day journey in the Scottish wilderness provided the time and space for Harry to develop new skills, gain confidence and face his fears.

    “The staff were spot on. They were very understanding, non-judgemental and gave me hope. There were one-on-one sessions and the peer support was good,” he says.

    Fear and anxiety had been part of Harry’s everyday life and initially the activities on the wilderness journey evoked those same feelings. “The week was broken up with activities that I would never do. The adrenaline would have been similar to anxiety so I avoided them. But with Venture Trust I could stay calm, my fear levels went down and my confidence went up. I felt safe to participate and understood I could enjoy the activities.”

    Harry also thrived on the long marches or ‘tabs’ with the fully loaded kit. “I loved the walking with the kit. Others thought I was crazy but I felt feelings I had not had for a long time.”

    The group of veterans on the wilderness journey came from very different military backgrounds and had different personalities, Harry explains. But at the end of the journey they were a band of brothers. “At the start it felt like we were all a bit judgemental but at the end were close with a firm bond. The end of the journey was an emotional place to be.”

    Harry’s journey with Venture Trust is continuing with further one-to-one support during Phase three. It’s still a hard road but by engaging in the Positive Futures programme Harry is now armed with the skills needed in the fight to claim back his life.

    He has also engaged with other organisations helping ex-servicemen and women including Driven to Extremes.

    “The three phase programme is helping my recovery. My confidence levels have risen and I am building my life back up. I understand that the mental issues I have come with the job of being in the military. I need to be the one to fix it. But without the support of Venture Trust and other organisations, I would have suffered in silence."

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