Careers - A job scheme that's cooking with gas

31st January 2014 at 00:00
Prince's Trust project finds work for hundreds of young people

It started in 2005 as a modest cookery course for the unemployed. But Get Into Cooking has since expanded to become one of the country's most successful schemes for getting young people into work.

When the Prince's Trust initiative began, it set out to find a few weeks' practical work experience in professional cookery for just 17 young people. Now, however, the Get Into umbrella spreads far beyond the kitchen.

This year, the scheme will help more than 1,000 people aged 16-25 into 17 industries - including information technology, the motor trade, security, construction, logistics, healthcare, and oil and gas.

A recent University of Glasgow study found that 24 similar employability projects secured a job or a place on a further education or vocational training course for an average of 45 per cent of their participants. By comparison, 54 per cent of those taking part in Get Into went on to find work for at least four weeks, with 73 per cent getting into work, training, education or volunteering.

Since 2007, the Wood Family Trust - the charitable offshoot of oil and gas tycoon Sir Ian Wood's business empire - has put more than pound;700,000 towards Get Into, and helped it increase to 52 separate schemes, a figure expected to rise to 70 in 2014-15.

Expanding from its original Central Belt location, Get Into now covers areas as far afield as Aberdeen, Dundee and Dumfries and Galloway, with 1,854 people taking part since the Wood Family Trust came on board.

Participants tend to have underachieved at school and may have been unemployed for a long time. Some grew up in care, others have been involved in crime.

"The programme takes a lot of people who wouldn't get in the front door, who don't have the qualifications and the soft skills they'd need in an interview," said Prince's Trust communications manager Shona Morrison.

Alison MacLachlan, UK manager for the Wood Family Trust, said the programme stood out from the start. "It was a rounded experience - it wasn't just focused on the job."

Young people can remain attached to the scheme for about six months, and each is assigned a mentor. Before placements start, they are prepped in the basic skills required in any workplace. Afterwards, their progress in getting work, education or more training is monitored.

Work experience tended to last about six weeks, Ms Morrison said. "It's very hands-on, there's not much down time - it's like a mini- apprenticeship."

Although not all employers can provide jobs or training beyond the placement, many do. Last year, businessman Sir Arnold Clark was impressed enough to offer modern apprenticeships at his motor company to all eight Get Into Cars participants.

As well as acquiring industry-specific skills, many participants testify that their lives as a whole have improved.

"As soon as I started the course I felt like all the stress had gone," said Dylan Stack, 16, from Rutherglen, near Glasgow, who went through Get Into Cooking. "I gained more experience during my five weeks with the Prince's Trust than on any of the much longer courses I had done previously."

Xavier Walker, a 23-year-old from Elgin, said of Get Into Hospitality: "It made a huge difference to my life. My home life changed for the better and I felt a new sense of security which I was previously lacking."

Other success stories include 19-year-old Nicole Gallagher from Bishopbriggs, near Glasgow, who had worked in various low-paid jobs - including stints at an accountancy firm and a nightclub - after studying make-up at college. Now, after earning a four-year apprenticeship with Arnold Clark through Get Into Cars, she plans to open a garage staffed entirely by women.

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