High Sheriff of West Sussex, Dr Tim Fooks, learns of employment challenges facing young people and how Spear Brighton is helping

The High Sheriff of West Sussex, Dr Tim Fooks, in his weekly briefing, finds out more about how Spear Brighton is inspiring young people to overcome challenges and succeed in finding long-term employment.

Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 3:23 pm

An unequal crisis. This is the description that has been given to the impact of the pandemic on the employment prospects for our young people.

Social distancing rules have hit hardest the sectors in which young people tend to find work, such as hospitality, care and leisure, and as a result, up to three-fifths of those who have lost jobs in the past three months are under 25.

Men, black and Asian young people and those living in southern England have seen some of the most significant falls in employment and, although further education has become more popular, there are now more young people who are neither working nor studying than before the crisis began.

The Spear Programme has helped young people realise their potential
The Spear Programme has helped young people realise their potential

The uncertainty associated with employment has become a significant source of stress for young people and can exacerbate their sense of loneliness and isolation at a time already complicated by the transition to adulthood.

And for those who are facing additional barriers to employment – a criminal record, a background in care, mental health challenges or a lack of education – finding the route into work can seem almost impossible.

However, Spear Brighton is a remarkable organisation that works across Sussex with disadvantaged and disengaged young people who have found themselves in exactly this situation. The charity’s vision is to give each of them the support, skills and confidence they need to get into work or re-enter education and begin to build a future filled with hope.

Kayley, who is 23 years old and lives in Chichester, joined the Spear Programme online before Christmas and recently she was able to describe her journey and the difference Spear made.

A Zoom meeting with Spear Brighton

“I grew up in foster care and had to move out at 16 years old. This made me really unsure of my future. I wasn’t sure how to get a job or how to even start.

“I tried really hard for my GCSE exams and when my results actually came in, they were quite disappointing for me. I got below average grades. I just kind of thought, ‘Why should I try any more?’, ‘Should I just give up?’. Most recently with the pandemic, it’s just made me really unsure again and kept me in that fixed mindset.

“However, everything changed when I joined the Spear Programme. It made me realise that I’ve got a lot of potential and that I’m very capable of doing anything I set my mind to. I’ve recently started a Level 2 training course in therapy through the charity Mind and I would like to use this to develop a career to help people with mental health problems.

“I feel I can get any job I want to get now. So that’s really exciting.”

A Spear Brighton training session

The Spear Programme begins with six weeks of coaching through a series of work-readiness topics, with a strong emphasis on attitudinal and soft skills alongside practical requirements.

This is then followed by 12 months of personalised support, where each young person remains in touch with their coach as they progress through their career journey. They have access to live job vacancies and weekly application workshops to provide community and support. At the end of each six-week programme, there is a celebration to mark the significant journey each person has been on.

The Covid pandemic has undoubtedly made life more difficult for young people, like Kayley, who are looking to start work but, with Spear Brighton on their side, the journey can become a significantly less daunting.

If you would like to find out more or how you can get involved, whether that is through mock interviewing, joining Spear Brighton at a celebration (next one is Thursday, April 8, at 3pm) or opening up a job or apprenticeship opportunity, please do get in touch with [email protected] or log on to www.spearbrighton.org for more information.