A SKILLS project and support for vulnerable and often disadvantaged young people will be rolled out across North Wales.
WeMindTheGap, targeting 16-25 year olds WeDiscover the program has had a positive impact on participants in Conwy County.
As a result, the scheme will now also be available to applicants who are not in education (not in education, employment or training) in Wrexham, Flintshire, Denbighshire, Gwynedd and Anglesey.
Works in partnership with Conwy Employment Hub, which oversees the successful Communities for Work, Communities for Work Plus and PaCE initiatives, and is supported by Conwy County Council and other sponsors.
Participants praised the mentors for changing their lives and giving them the confidence to seize opportunities after the pandemic.
Among them was MJ, a young carer who struggled with mental health issues and admitted he had joined WeDiscover in order to “do something” without having the motivation to finish school.
“I didn’t do much other than playing video games occasionally and doing art, although the passion for it was gone,” they said.
“My sister found the course online and I didn’t initially think I’d go for it or maybe go for a day, but I stayed and I’m so glad I did because it was an incredible experience.”
MJ added: “The WeDiscover the team has been very supportive, helping me with my artwork and to be honest, if it wasn’t for them I’d probably still be stuck at home
“The teachers were nice and kind and whenever I needed to talk, they were there; it has been an amazing journey and I feel like a completely different person.
“I love art and I’m very creative, so the virtual and in-person classes gave me a boost, so much so that I plan to start selling my artwork and develop it as a business.”
As well as access to IT equipment and presentations from guest speakers such as MMA fighter Aaron Abbey and a zookeeper from Colwyn Bay’s Welsh Mountain Zoo, participants enjoyed days out, helping out with community events and winning prizes for taking part – MJ’s progress and commitment was rewarded voucher for art equipment.
WeDiscover Program Manager Laura Columbine has been delighted with the feedback and is delighted that they will have a platform to support even more young people across the region when the next cohort joins in September.
“We will now be working with local agencies, families, charities and organizations to seek referrals and demonstrate the value of taking this project forward,” she said.
“One of the new partnerships forged in recent months has been with the Marine Conservation Society, and we will aim to have a lasting and sustainable impact on the environment, the economy and, importantly, the future of the young people involved.”
Libby Duo, strategy manager at Conwy Employment Service, added: “Hearing what a difference it makes WeDiscover brought into the lives of MJ and others, it is very gratifying and a testament to the hard work and care of all involved.
“We now have the opportunity to do even more by targeting other areas of North Wales to make real, lasting change after a difficult couple of years.
“We encourage more families and agencies to contact us because this is a chance to do something special, to help young people take the first step towards their future careers, overcome adversity and lay the foundations for a bright future.”
The scheme has been a huge success across Wales and the North West, and since the programs launched in 2014 they have transformed the lives of up to 250 young people, delivering over £5.5m of social value and over £2.5m of public funding savings.
Rachel Clacher CBE, Chair and Founder of WeMindTheGap, said: “We are delighted to be working again with Conwy County Council to deliver our unique digital program for underserved young people.
“The impact of Covid-19 and the ongoing restrictions have disproportionately affected our youth. Presenting the program with love and meaningful opportunities, we aim to support young people to change their lives and take the next step into the wider world.’
WeDiscover taster sessions will be held from September 19th until the start of the program on October 3rd. To register at Art WeDiscover program and for more information, email [email protected] or phone 0333 939 8818. Visit www.wemindthegap.org.uk and watch a video about WeDiscover here: We open | WeMindTheGap
Visit www.conwy.gov.uk/conwyemploymenthub to find out more about Conwy Employment Hub.
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