Careers website opens doors for its creators
They walk into the afternoon sunshine with relaxed smiles - teenagers whose futures seemed less certain a year or so ago.
Their lives are on track now - there are goals in mind and college courses to go to. They're smiling with relief too after giving confident presentations on their work to a hall full of people.
Their project is being launched today to help other teenagers find new directions - job opportunities, training and further education. Their website should prove a valuable resource for youngsters struggling to find work, especially for teenagers with few skills or qualifications.
Over the past year Ashleigh Corfield, Dennis Youngson and Gary Graham have been building a database which promotes local services and support for young people throughout Aberdeenshire. The Youth Opportunities Database Aberdeenshire (YODA) will also act as a focal point for businesses and voluntary organisations to advertise jobs, work experience or volunteering opportunities free of charge. It's also a resource for teachers and local authority staff who are helping school leavers move to the next stage of their lives.
The charity Aberdeen Foyer helped support 20 youngsters from Banff Lifeskills group to set up this venture. Today, at this community planning partnership event for the 16+ Learning Choices initiative, these three members of the group are outlining their research to an Aberdeenshire audience that works with young people.
The teenagers' efforts have given them a range of new practical skills and will earn them qualifications in "Self and Work" and "Practical Abilities" from the Scottish Qualifications Authority, and MV awards for volunteering.
"It's really good. It's given me more confidence and more motivation to go to college or work," says 16-year-old Ashleigh, who left Banff Academy last May.
"I am going to college down near Newcastle and I'm going to be a beautician. With this I got an MV award and two SVQ awards and we did the John Muir Award as well," says Ashleigh, who started work on the database last September.
Gary, 17, left Banff Academy a year before Ashleigh and went to study music at Aberdeen College. It didn't work out for him at that stage, but working on this project has given him the confidence to have another go.
"For the past half-year I have been volunteering with Lifeskills and getting different types of training. I have learnt an absolute ton of skills. It's a real confidence-builder for me because I am going to college to do music again, pretty much thanks to the Foyer," says Gary, a guitarist who wants to be a studio musician.
Dennis, 17, left Peterhead Academy two years ago. "Now this website has been set up it will be easier for me to look for a job, so it's handy as well. It's either between joinery or welding. I don't like sitting down; I like being busy and getting my hands dirty," he says.
YODA is the result of a government initiative through Skills Development Scotland and is supported by Aberdeenshire Council's web team and linked to the authority's web pages.
"It's an opportunity for young people to be pro-active about their future, using a local friendly resource which is designed by young people for young people," says YODA co-ordinator Pamela Munro. She hopes maintaining the database will continue to provide learning opportunities for young people and help develop their skills.
Learning the skills to get ahead in today's jobs market
Gary, Dennis and Ashleigh are a good advert for this project - they appear eager to help, meet your eye and smile encouragingly when they're talking to you. Simple achievements on the face of it, but skills many adults fail to master over a lifetime.
They have learnt research skills, how to make phone calls and how to present themselves when they visit organisations offering services for the database.
It's a happy day for Jane Gauld, a learning support worker with Aberdeen Foyer who runs their Lifeskills group and has watched these young people mature and become more self-assured.
"They've done research, they're gathering information, they visited organisations to find out what they do. They have researched using the internet, gone to doctors' surgeries and visited services that are available for young people, support services and colleges," says Mrs Gauld.
In the current economic climate, young people without skills are being encouraged to have realistic expectations and apply for jobs they may perceive as less glamorous to help them get the skills and experience they need to progress.
"Aberdeenshire's always been fortunate that there's been a good jobs market out there," says Pamela Munro, the 16+ Learning Choices co- ordinator for Aberdeenshire. "But we're finding, because of the way unemployment is increasing, younger people are not getting the same opportunities. There are older people out there applying for jobs that might have been available for younger people in the past.
"A lot of young people are looking to go into the oil industry. But these are skilled jobs and they maybe don't have the experience or the qualifications, so it's very competitive. You are left with hospitality and caring, which are under-subscribed because there is this mindset that the oil industry is where the money is," says Mrs Munro.