Protected Work Experience: Helping disadvantaged young people into education, training or employment

For many young people the transition from school to further education or employment can be a difficult one to negotiate. For those with multiple disadvantages the difficulties are far greater. FE News reports.

Three years ago Elmbridge Youth Services had an idea for a sheltered or protected work placement which would give far more support for such young people than is the norm. The innovation was supported with funding from Walton Charity.

The idea is very straightforward. Young people go into an extended 12 week supported industry placement. The area of work is agreed with the young person as they need to feel that it is an area they are keen to work in or it involves skills they really want to achieve.

The employers meet the young people before agreeing to take them on and then receive financial compensation for the extra amount of support they will be expected to give. Similarly the young person receives a fixed sum of money (expenses) to recognise their commitment to the employer.

Those that took part had a range of severe needs, ranging from major mental health difficulties, including suicidal tendencies and self harming, through criminal behaviour and being victims of sexual abuse. Almost all reported severe lack of self-confidence and self-esteem, communications issues, being very withdrawn and suspicious of their peers and paranoia around public transport.

14 young people took part in the scheme, 10 completed their placement and 10 had entered some form of employment or further education six months after finishing their placement. This 70:30 success rate was way above expectations.

The employers interviewed were extremely positive about the scheme which they clearly found more rewarding than traditional work placements. Readers of this publication may not be surprised to hear that several employers have a jaundiced view of ‘traditional’ work experience, but were very enthusiastic about these longer placements.

As one said “we get over 30 requests a week for work experience and we have pretty much given up providing any. Having the opportunity to work with a young person over 12 weeks and watch them learn and develop skills is much more satisfying.”

I was not able to do any systematic follow up with the trainees themselves, but one had subsequently done an interview on video in which they talked of how the protected placement had completely changed their life, a very powerful testimony.

Some never completed their 12 weeks and yet gained enormously from the experience. Others on completing were still not ready to move into employment or education but were more settled at home or finding it easier to socialise or suffering less anxieties.

Read more about the trainees Protected Work Experience: Helping disadvantaged young people into education, training or employment

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter~ Tamsin

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Categories: Employment, Further Education, Learning, Teaching and Training.


  1. Simon Foster

    I used a similar model in 2014 and we got 118 into employment and another 75 into Education or Apprenticeships. Thought we were onto a winner but the funding for the project got pulled

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