Bristol approach to developing youth skills receives national recognition

A West of England based approach to helping young people gain the skills and experience they need to find work has been recognised at a local government awards ceremony in London.

The Helping Young People into Employment (HYPE) West approach, which provides a personalised service to young people aged between 18 and 24, has been awarded the Innovation in Education, Employment and Training for young people award at this year’s Municipal Journal Achievement Awards.

This success came after another Bristol City Council programme received recognition in the Delivering Better Outcomes category. The Council’s “Think Family” programme, a revolutionary approach to identifying and getting help to some of Bristol’s most vulnerable families, was highly commended by the judges.

The HYPE West programme, funded by the Cabinet Office and led by Bristol City Council, covers an area encompassing Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

HYPE West offers young people a number of personalised services to boost their chances of getting into sustainable employment. As well as mentoring and job coaching, the initiative includes a high quality work experience placement with guaranteed reference and a job-matching service aimed at securing an apprenticeship or job for each participant.

Since launching in 2014, the programme has contributed to reducing youth unemployment in the West of England region by 56%, a bigger drop than that seen across the South West of England. To date over 700 people have participated in the programme and more than 400 have achieved long term employment.

Councillor Claire Hiscott, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Education and Skills, said:

“HYPE West was formed to tackle the issue of high levels of youth unemployment in the West of England. I believe that it has contributed significantly to improving the prospects and making the workplace more accessible for young people. The flexible and personal approach matches the ethos that we want to bring to education and skills in our city. Part of my role as a Cabinet Member will be to work with partners across the city to ensure the job market in Bristol is open for all to engage with and benefit from. I look forward to working with HYPE West and others to achieve our common goals.”

The programme’s success has its roots in the commissioning process that included young people as expert advisers to help design the service. The input of this group meant that the needs of those who would participate were put at the heart of the programme. Examples of the type of help suggested by young people was support in writing outstanding CVs, covering letters, job applications as well as practical interview tips and techniques. In work support insures that participants are able to remain in employment in the first six months of starting their new job.

One of the young people who participated in the programme was Ryan. He said:

“I first attended the HYPE Referral Day at Weston Job Centre to meet with the Job Coaches, although it wasn’t something I wanted to do. I only went because I was directed to by my job centre advisor. Looking back I am glad I did attend now.

“I was then allocated Tom as a coach and, despite not attending the first couple of appointments and not responding to calls or texts, Tom didn’t give up. When he found out which housing association I was with he started to make contact with my support worker Candice. The three of us began to meet regularly. I decided I wanted to work in removals or deliveries so Tom spoke to his colleague and they went about finding me a work placement with a local company.

“Looking back I am now glad I was directed into meeting with HYPE, If it wasn’t for Tom not giving up and the support him and my support worker Candice have provided I would probably still be claiming JSA. Instead I now have a full time Job and I am able to pay rent and buy things that before I never would have when on JSA”.

Given the size of the region and the problem they faced, the programme has adopted a partnership approach to their work. There are four local authorities, the Department of Work and Pensions, the Local Enterprise Partnership and many others from the voluntary, skills, training and business sectors all working together to tackle to problem on a case by case basis.

Strong relationships have been built with agencies and programmes such as local job centres and the Ways 2 Work network, meaning programme participants have access to a wide network of professionals and job opportunities.

John Readman, Strategic Director for People, said:

“I am delighted to see the HYPE West team’s efforts recognised with this award. Their dedication and commitment to tackling youth unemployment in the region has reaped real reward for those young people struggling to enter the world of work.

“Like all major cities, Bristol has found it challenging to improve the prospects of young people who find themselves unable to secure a job due to a lack of skills. For the individuals, this constant cycle of missing out on opportunities can impact on their confidence and lead to further withdrawal from the jobs market. This is why we, along with partners across the region, sought to provide a personalised service that would not only develop skills and opportunities, but also boost the confidence of participants. We are now building on the success of the Hype West model to achieve even more employment and skills success through our Bristol Learning City and West of England Devolution plans.”