Success of scheme to get Heathfield youngsters into work or college

A GROUND-breaking scheme which helps Heathfield youngsters realise their employment or education dreams celebrates the launch of its fourth, ten-week programme this month.

Heathfield Works is a local project run by Tomorrow’s People, a national employment charity that helps people get and keep a job or study a course. It began in 2004 and has helped more than 440,000 youngsters on their way back to work. The charity boasts an 86 per cent success rate with young people still working or studying a year later.

It first served urban communities but Cllr Rupert Simmons lobbied the charity’s chief executive pointing out people living in rural areas needed as much, if not more support, given limited public transport and local job shortages. The Heathfield scheme began on September 26 last year and now 30 successful graduates are now working or studying in fields such as the fire service, the army, ITC, landscape gardening and fashion.

Frances Conway from Tomorrow’s People said: “Young people are brilliant at social networking and firms which need those skills are keen to employ them.”

Cllr Simmons said: “The brilliant thing about Heathfield Works is that support is tailored to the individual. Some youngsters have never worked, some dropped out of school, many have no self-esteem or confidence. We are talking here about people who have been knocked back in life; possibly through family breakdown or just failing at what they want to do. In villages they have nowhere to hide. With no post-school support they quickly lose their confidence and motivation; they don’t know how to find work and sometimes get involved in petty crime.”

Thanks to mentoring and support from business, the Parish Council, Chamber of Trade and individuals, Heathfield Works provides the help they need. Organisers make sure the location is correct, for example they must be able to get to a workplace or college.

Cllr Simmons went on: “We’ve had terrific community help; for example one person offered daily transport for a youngster to get to Bexhill fire station. “We’re working towards sustainable funding to take the scheme forward into the next financial year and we are optimistic. In future we could be looking at 40, 50 or 60 graduates.”