Coronavirus grant helps young people get back on the pathway to work and training

By Nick Batten on 4 May, 2021

The Platform Project in Swindon, a social enterprise group helping young people on the margins of education and training become more employable, has been boosted by a coronavirus fund grant.

It has been awarded £13,300 from Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund to help with salary costs. The fund has distributed more than £1.1 million through more than 260 grants.

Sadie Sharp, the project’s Managing Director, said the number of 18 to 24-year-olds out of work since the pandemic began has tripled, which prompted The Platform Project to evolve the way it works with those who are referred by organisations including schools, social services and other youth charities.

Many of the young people aged between 16 and 21 coming to the project have missed school because of exclusion, problems at home or being caught up in crime. Others have been in care or have additional needs. Most of them have seen their situation worsen during the pandemic.

Sadie explained, “They are coming to us as a bit of a shell of a young person. They lack confidence and social skills when talking to new people. They are apprehensive about trying new things and we see a lot of anxiety.”

The Platform Project has previously run separate commercial projects to provide its young people with business skills and experience, including digital magazine i-Dare, start-up firms producing clothing and mugs made by young people and a digital marketing agency. But now it is running them all concurrently with up to 40 ‘interns’ working on them for at least ten hours a week for six months.

The interns produce the magazine once a month, work on their own start-up businesses based on their interests and are also collaborating on a project to support a voluntary group – the current group has chosen homeless charity Threshold.

“They have team meetings to discuss the projects they are working on that day and are using Teams, planner boards, collaboration functions and all of the IT they would be using in the workplace,” continued Sadie.

“We are working on the basics like active listening skills and being prepared for meetings and they are getting experience of project management and working to deadlines. It’s an accelerated way of developing their general employability skills and confidence. Employers now want what they term ‘intra-preneurs’ – self-motivated people, who can spot opportunities and have good internal customer service skills.

“We are very grateful for the grant, it has been really nice listening to the interns’ conversations here in the office and hearing the wheels turning, it has a nice buzz about it. The ball is rolling because the model works rather than because I am pushing it.”

Fiona Oliver, joint Chief Executive of Wiltshire Community Foundation, said, “We have had a long association with The Platform Project and have always been impressed by the way its positivity and practical help instils belief in young people as well as giving them a pathway into work or further learning.

“Our fund is there to help the community recover from the dreadful year we have all experienced and this is a perfect way of using it.”

To donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund, or to find out how to apply for a grant, go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.

Pictured above: Some of the young people on The Platform Project’s intern scheme whose employability is being boosted by a Wiltshire Community Foundation grant.