It’s a tough world out there and no mistake.
Ask anyone who is currently looking for work, has found him or herself in debt, experienced housing problems, is down on his or her luck or whose life has taken another unexpected turn for the worse. There but for the grace of God go I, right?
It can be all too easy to sit back, complacent with a roof over your head, food in your belly and a few quid in the bank. This is a time of austerity with the safety and security of full-time employment no longer what it was. With cuts coming thick and fast from all sides, the safety net of the benefit system, which has safeguarded many vulnerable people over the years and has provided a much-needed breathing space, has gradually turned into an even greater source of stress.
The system asks not just for people to jump through hoops, but to perform triple somersaults whilst doing so. For those who have just left school, and don’t have the support of their families or their finances for the luxury of higher education, life during these times can be extra tough.
Suicide rates have rocketed since the start of the economic downturn which began in 2008, with 85 percent of those deaths consisting of men. Research published by the British Medical Journal stated two fifths of these deaths were directly related to job losses. The research showed the areas with the biggest increase in unemployment have also had the highest increase in suicides. Previous to the recession, the suicide rate had fallen every year since 2000 with a reported fall of 83 fewer deaths annually.
Giving young people a ‘vision of the possible’ under such bleak circumstances may well seem impossible, but there are helping hands out there and one such pair of hands is an organisation called Spear.
Spear share that vision for free.
Spear provides hope in the form of six-week interactive training courses for unemployed people aged 16 to 24 and I was privileged to attend a graduation evening, their 50th, at St Paul’s Church in Hammersmith recently.
The Hammersmith site was Spear’s first, and opened in 2004. Due to its success they now also have sites in Chelsea, Shepherds Bush and Fulham, with the capacity to serve 360 students a year. Spear plans to have 12 operational centres by 2015. Their courses are described as highly interactive and on investigation they do appear to be exactly that. They aim to address the most common causes of underachievement, such as underdeveloped life skills, ineffective job searching and lack of motivation. They also aim to address the need for information, advice and guidance; qualifications and opportunity.
75% are still in employment or training twelve months later
Spear’s statistics state that of those who graduate from the course, 75% are still in employment or training twelve months later. A very high employment rate given the background of those taking the course, and one that should be applauded. In fact, the six-week employment-training course was highly commended by the CAF Charity of the Year Awards 2008 and also by the Centre for Social Justice Awards for 2009.
In addition ‘Spear-Head’ was implemented in 2010. This professional recruitment service aims to encourage businesses to create new employment opportunities for young people. Following on from this, in 2011 they also launched Spear Solutions, a consultancy offering coaching to mid to lower-level managers and employees in soft skills such as attitude, communications and values to enhance organisational morale, performance and retention of staff.
What did I witness at Spear during one short evening? A group of young people who had signed up feeling desperate and disillusioned six weeks previously. I saw a strong bond that had been formed between them and felt the sense of empowerment and motivation that the Spear tutors had given them, which had obviously been embraced, and they were now empowering each other.
A genuine look of elation
I saw young people stand up one by one to tell the audience a little bit of their story, how they had felt abandoned, let down, had taken to drugs or turned to crime and how positive they now felt about the future after spending time at Spear. Some announced on that night they had just gained employment, and there was a genuine look of elation on their faces (and rightly so).
We should all open our eyes to organisations such as Spear and if possible get off our backsides to help wherever we can. Lord knows we can’t leave it to the government, at least not this one. There’s the obvious financial help that could be given, but more importantly, there is also time you can give to this or other organisations like it. You can get involved as a business or as an individual, help with mock interviews or even offer a chance of employment. If you manage to attend a graduation evening, I guarantee it will not just open your eyes.
After wiping away a tear, it will give you a fresh pair to see what’s actually happening out there.