Community groups are helping tackle youth unemployment

The Bridge Education Centre
The Bridge Education Centre

Unemployment rates for 16-24 year-olds in Sussex are considerably lower (0.97%) than the average for Britain (1.58%)

On the face of it, that’s good news. However, there are wide variations across Sussex. In Brighton & Hove, for example – even with all those coffee shops and bars - youngsters are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as they are in Horsham.

Rates in Eastbourne and Hastings are higher than the GB average. Fresh Start Sussex, a community group funded by Sussex Community Foundation and which runs from Easthill Park Café in Portslade, tries to address these problems by offering accredited training in catering. “In a city overflowing with coffee shops and food retail, a good-grounding in these skills – accompanied by a recognised City & Guilds catering certificate – will open the doors to a first job,” says project worker John Shepherd. “The thrill of that first pay cheque, and the improved lifestyle it will bring, will get young people into the ‘work habit’.”

Another group that the Foundation has funded (over £40,000 since 2011) is the Bridge Education Centre in Moulescoomb who offer people who might be vulnerable and significantly disadvantaged the chance to get back into lifelong learning and hopefully employment.

There is one-to-one learning support, comprehensive careers advice, a volunteer reading coach scheme for poor and non-readers, a volunteering programme to develop skills and confidence in roles such as administration, reception and catering. 90% of the people helped by the Bridge do not have a qualification or have low level qualifications.

Around 100 people have gained employment over two years. One of those Andrew, aged 35, who had, with a history of drug and alcohol abuse, left school at 16 with no qualifications, dyslexia and poor mental health. He’d been unemployed for some time, when he first came to The Bridge in 2015, seeking help to find a job. The team realised quite quickly that Andrew needed help with his reading and writing. He embarked on a range of programmes, including the volunteer reading coach scheme, Job Club sessions, confidence building and IT Beginners and First-Aid-at-Work courses. He then expressed an interest in a career in the security industry and enrolled for the examinations. For three months, the Bridge helped him to study for those exams with intensive one-to-one sessions and, over this period, he successfully passed two exams. Andrew is now a professionally qualified security guard and first aider. He’s developed a huge amount of self-belief, confidence and his well-being has increased. The positive changes he has made in both his physical and mental health has enabled him to enjoy his family life more fully. "If it wasn't for the help from the Bridge, I wouldn't be where I am now," he added.