Venture Trust, the charity that supports young disadvantaged people to make positive changes in their lives, has joined forces with Who Cares? Scotland, and Move On to develop the employability programme, Reaching Higher.
The programme, funded through the Queen’s Young Leaders Grant scheme administered by Comic Relief, is designed to help care experienced, unemployed young people between 16 and 29 to gain skills, and work experience, and, with support, to enter sustained employment.
Reaching Higher offers a vital extension to the work that Venture Trust already undertakes in its Inspiring Young Futures personal development programme. Inspiring Young Futures, funded primarily by The Big Lottery Fund, Inspiring Scotland and a number of UK trusts and foundations, supports disengaged young people, to gain the skills needed to achieve their goals, grow in confidence and stability. The Reaching Higher programme will take those individuals who have reached a point where they are ready to get into employment, and give them the opportunity to shine.
Nicole Blain is one of the first participants to have been enrolled on the Reaching Higher programme, following her involvement with Venture Trust’s Inspiring Young Futures programme. Nicole is 19 years old but has had a turbulent past, with lack of support leading to homelessness, subsequent unhealthy relationships, unemployment and substance abuse. Her life was in turmoil and she was living with a friend when the opportunity came for the Reaching Higher programme. She started a four week ‘pre-employability’ course in October 2015, and was then chosen to start a one-year traineeship with Who Cares? Scotland, as an Events & Membership Admin Assistant.
Andy Hardie, Senior Development Worker at Venture Trust, commented, “During the course of the Reaching Higher pre-employability training, the change in Nicole was amazing. At the start of the four week course she was quite shy. She was anxious and somewhat distant during the first couple of days, but nearing the end of the first week Nicole became more at ease within the group and also with the facilitators. She bonded really well with her peers, becoming more of a leader within the group especially during the teambuilding activities.”
He continues, “Nicole opened up to me regarding her anxiety and how it had the potential to hold her back in achieving her goals. In doing this, she grew more confident, and spoke openly and honestly when talking about personal events. Nicole was a pleasure to work with and has masses of potential. I believe that when she puts her mind to do something she will achieve it.”
Now in her role at Who Cares? Scotland, Nicole’s life has turned around; she has a sustainable home, a purpose, and has set goals that she wants to achieve. Not only that, she has gained a great deal of confidence and her life is much more balanced; and there is hope.
Nicole comments, “Venture Trust changed me as a person. I used to be rebellious and now I want to knuckle down and do something really positive with my life. The Reaching Higher programme has given me a lot of support and skills that I never knew I had. It has allowed me to think about my dreams; before I would never have aspired to go to university and now I know I will!”
For further details of the Venture Trust’s Reaching Higher programme, click here.
Transitions to Independent Living
Wilderness journey: December 2015
The weather on our latest wilderness expedition added a festive theme to the journey and provided participants with some additional challenges…
The participants were taking part in Venture Trust’s Transitions to Independent Living programme, which is designed for those living in temporary supported accommodation, unstable tenancies or considered at risk of homelessness. The course helps participants to develop their confidence, relationships, employability and other skills necessary to secure and sustain permanent accommodation.
Six of the participants came from the slightly warmer climes of London and the surrounding area, and arrived with energy and excitement, despite delays on their 6-hour train journey. On arrival, they met the other participants at our Stirling base who came from Aberdeen and the group soon bonded during a meal - fish and chips in Pitlochry.
At Kinloch Rannoch Outdoor Centre the group created a great buzz and supportive culture. There was a positive energy as many of the participants stepped out of their comfort zones to challenge themselves, taking part in activities including climbing and abseiling.
The group set out from the centre ready for their expedition with the weather dry but cold. It wasn't long before the weather started to deteriorate but they were able to set up camp, cook dinner on their Trangia stoves and settle in for the night under canvas in the Scottish wilderness.
When they awoke and peered out of their tents the group faced a different type of challenge - heavy snow. Some of the participants described it as a "winter wonderland" or something from Disney's 'Frozen', however, on assessment, the Venture Trust team decided the challenges presented by the snow were too great so the decision was made to retreat back to the outdoor centre.
The change in plans provided an unexpected real-life scenario on which to demonstrate one of the cornerstones of Venture Trust's approach - Choice Theory/Reality Therapy. This framework helps participants to distinguish between what they can and cannot control, and to try to control only the controllable. Everyone dealt well with the change to the expedition and with the snow remaining constant over the next few days it certainly proved to be the right decision.
At the centre, the group continued to enjoy the experience and challenges of communal living. Being snowed in, alternative group activities were arranged and these included a Come Dine with Me competition which turned out to be very competitive - with some honest feedback and scoring. The group also got back outside to go on a forestry walk with lots of learning around the theme of 'Self, others and the environment' along with a few snow ball fights to keep everyone going.
When the weather had improved enough, the group were taken out for their biggest challenge - ‘mountain day’ on Schiehallion, one of Scotland’s best known Munros. The group walked part of the way up this classic Munro, with some making it higher than others, but with levels of commitment high for all. Each participant exceeded their own expectations, contending with tricky conditions and snow drifts up to their knees. Later in the day they also took part in role play exercises focussing on 'triggers' and how to control behaviour to gain positive consequences.
The last day of the course focused on participant's ‘Quality World’ (what they want out of life) and the strategies that they can use to get there. With support from their 1-1 field team member, they also completed an action plan outlining their goals and ambitions for the coming days, weeks and months.
On all of Venture Trust’s wilderness journeys, the weather may significantly influence how the course will evolve. This Transitions journey was no different, being full of changes due to the snow. However, the group adapted well to these and were able to press on and overcome the challenges presented to them. This will serve them well as they continue their personal journeys.
Merry Christmas and good luck in the future to all the participants from the field team - Sally, John, Polly, Gregor and Stu.
See yourself differently.
More information on our Transitions to Independent Living programme can be found here. This course would not be possible without the support of our funders. A big thanks to Dulverton Trust, Scottish Government Housing Voluntary Sector Grant Scheme, Simon Gibson Charitable Trust and the Mackintosh Foundation.
On Friday 31st July we celebrated the achievements of 23 Venture Trust participants who completed the Build a Bike programme.
Four, week-long, courses supported by the Department for Work and Pensions via Job Centre Plus were run in partnership with The Bike Station - Edinburgh. Participants received support to build their confidence, motivation and employability while learning valuable hands-on vocational training in bike construction in a workshop environment. At the end of the course participants were given the chance to keep the bike they had built and also shown how to cycle safely and efficiently both in the city and off-road.
All the participants were referred to Venture Trust after a prolonged period of unemployment, with the aim of giving them a chance to learn a new set of practical skills as well as finding out more about bikes and cycling, in a supportive group environment. Venture Trust Outreach Workers have been on hand every step of the way providing one-to-one support to participants to enable them to take their next steps into volunteering, training, work placements and employment.
There have been a number of notable successes and inspiring stories of the tangible difference this course has made to participants’ lives, with demand for the courses and the positive outcomes far exceeding our targets for this pilot project.
“I took part in Venture Trust's Build a Bike scheme after a long period of unemployment. I was able to learn new skills in a calm and supportive environment, and it helped my confidence knowing I could learn new things and work well with others.”
Angus joined the course after being unemployed for over a year and when we first met him, his morale was very low. The Build a Bike programme really improved his confidence and, with the support of his Venture Trust Outreach Worker, he successfully applied for and completed a placement with one of our corporate partners. Since completing the placement he has secured full-time employment as a Systems Operator.
“Venture Trust……supported me through a successful interview for a voluntary placement. The placement was enjoyable and interesting, and subsequently I gained paid employment. At that interview I was able to use the placement to demonstrate my ability to work and it gave me the belief to know I could do the job. Venture Trust made a great difference in my life, and its staff gave me a lot of friendly support and feedback while looking for work.”
As well as gaining confidence and learning a new set of skills, participants have discovered how to make the most of their local environment using their bikes, both in the city and off-road. For many, this is already helping them to make cycling a part of their everyday lives, they tell us that they are more active now and that they are using their bikes to access training and employment opportunities. Developing a new interest for themselves (and their families), plus realising the sense of freedom of having their own transport is also some of the fantastic feedback we received at the event.
The Bike Station has also generously donated a bicycle computer to each participant, to track how much mileage they clock up during the next six months and to give them hints and tips about their cycling.
Thanks again to our partners at The Bike Station and Job Centre Plus and also to Sainsbury’s Quartermile for providing refreshments for the event. We are so pleased with the success of this innovative programme and wish all our Build a Bike graduates every success for the future!
At a recent event at the Scottish Parliament hosted by Kenny MacAskill MSP, five young people, including two former Venture Trust participants, were invited to speak about their experience of the criminal justice system alongside experts and academics in the field.
The event was organised by the Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice (CYCJ), the Scottish Consortium for Crime and Criminal Justice (SCCCJ) and Venture Trust following the publication of a special edition of Scottish Justice Matters entitled “Living it: children, young people and justice”. Ministers, MSPs, practitioners and young people were all in attendance to hear directly from the young people featured in the publication.
During her presentation, Susie commented on the impact Venture Trust had in turning her life around:
“The sheriff put me on a course with Venture Trust, this made absolutely the difference in my life, it was the right help at the right time. Which is what I needed all along.
[After] the Venture Trust course, I came back and I was motivated and I had everything, an action plan; I had the tools for life; I had everything that I needed to get on with life and ever since then hand on heart I can say that my life has gotten so much better. I’m working, I’ve worked for the police and young offenders and prison services.vated and I had everything, an action plan;
From all the bad stuff that happened in my life I try and make something good come from it and that’s about all I can do.
Individuals in this room have a responsibility to our young people in Scotland to give them a better chance. I don’t want to be standing here in another ten years’ time and there’s more young people with the same story that would just be pointless.”
Brian, another former Venture Trust participant also reflected on his experiences and the huge change which has occurred in his life as a result of the programme:
“My experience in the past wasn’t good, growing up, I never had a father-figure in my life. The day it’s different, the day I’m at college. I work part day with social work to help homeless people, it’s an amazing cause to be part of. I love life but it wasn’t always like that for me, it’s only because of the support I got from the Venture Trust.”
The ‘Living It’ feature was edited by Claire Lightowler from CYCJ along with the two former Venture Trust participants and together they were able to ensure that other young people had genuine opportunities to make their voices heard. As editors, they guided and shaped the publication, and subsequently engaged with the wider Criminal Justice Voluntary Sector Forum to facilitate the participation of a wide range of young people who have had different experiences at the sharp end of the justice system.
The team have explored issues which came to the fore, such as ‘kids with family members in custody, the impact of traumatic events in young lives, experiences of supervision and the intricacies of gaining employment with an offending history. They have also sought to highlight the importance of being positive about young people and how positive professionals can help make a difference.
Two Venture Trust participants from Edinburgh have recently benefited from work experience opportunities with local tourism businesses. They both achieved a great deal including updating their CVs, growing in confidence and gaining an insight into the world of work. This collaboration demonstrates the potential for young people developing their skills supported by business.
Working in partnership, Scottish Business in the Community, Venture Trust and local business volunteers have supported young people over the last few months with help in CV writing, interview skills and being prepared for work. For many Venture Trust participants this is the start of a journey towards getting a job and in taking part in workshops with business volunteers has supported new insights and learning including breaking down barriers.
We are delighted to be working with SBC and business volunteers. This builds on Venture Trust’s focus to help young people to develop core skills for life, learning and work. To find out more about some our work please see our earlier feature in the Scotsman here or visit the programmes section of our website.
You can read the whole story by Hilary Robb, SBC's Hubs Manager East on the Scotsman's website.