Disillusioned teenagers who leave school in Cardiff without much chance of finding work are being given a new incentive to learn. Projects developed by South Glamorgan Training and Enterprise Council are helping up to 1,000 16 to 18-year-olds a year by inviting them to attend one of 14 outreach centres in the city.
The young people, many of whom dropped out of education early, can get advice on careers and training opportunities when they come in to take part in recreational activities or perhaps just call in for a cup of coffee and a chat.
Called the Status A scheme, it was devised three years ago because of concern over 16 to 18-year-olds who leave school without qualifications and cannot claim benefits if they are unemployed. "No organisation was chasing them. They said they felt rejected by society," says Lindsay Evans, senior training and development manager at South Glamorgan TEC.
Sixteen outreach workers, many of whom had been previously unemployed themselves, were appointed to identify teenagers who would benefit from attending centres run with the youth service and voluntary groups.
Claire Abraham, an outreach worker in Pentwyn and Llanederyn, says many young people initially drop into the centre to pick up a leaflet. "You slowly break down the barriers until people are concerned enough to go out and find what it is they want."
The centre provides guidance and support, but many young people see it as giving more than that. "They feel they've got a friend within a group who can help them," she says.
Many teenagers only attend a centre a few times, but about 50 to 60 per cent of those leaving projects either find a job, join a training programme or opt for voluntary work.
Last month Paul Chandler was offered a place by the Newey Training company in Cardiff after attending the Status A project in Pentwyn. He is now working in a warehouse and receiving training. Paul, who left school last year without any qualifications, says the centre pointed him in the right direction, helping him to prepare a curriculum vitae and looking through job advertisements.
"At the centre I would go in and have a one-to-one chat. In school there were 32 of us to one teacher."
Lindsay Evans says an increasing number of teenagers who are offered jobs try to make sure they will also receive training. "Hopefully they can see that education and training should not lead them into a dead-end job.
While the Pentwyn and Llanederyn centre provides basic skills courses, young people joining Status A projects in other parts of Cardiff are offered more sophisticated training.
Ten music-mad teenagers in the Cardiff Bay area were given the chance to learn about recording and how to become a disc jockey at the Institute of Music and Multimedia Technology this year. Many arrive with unrealistic dreams of fame, but the chance to work in a studio often motivates them to develop an interest in information and communications technology and perhaps move on to other courses.
Project manager John Lenney acknowledges that the institute is unlikely to uncover many budding singing stars or DJs but believes that coming into contact with the world of music is just the stimulant many disillusioned teenagers need. "We try to involve as many transferable skills as possible," he says. "Some leave saying they want to become a mechanic, but at least they have got their dream out of their system."