At the City & Guilds Foundation we’re passionate about advocating for, and supporting, people who face barriers to accessing skills development. Two years ago, we looked at supporting refugees as a beneficiary group – and have supported a number of different grass root charities in the UK who are making a quantifiable impact on many lives within refugee and migrant communities.
One such organisation that we are proud to support is the Positive Youth Foundation (PYF) based in Coventry. Initially established in 2011 as a youth charity to support young people in the city, in 2015 PYF created its Involved Programme to support the integration of newly arrived refugee and asylum seeking young people.
As PYF’s Programme Manager Obayed Hussain explains:
‘Schools weren’t ready for the influx of young people arriving in the area. Not all schools had trained teachers to support in teaching English as an additional language and so we developed a programme initially supporting 8-15 year olds. On the back of this success, and seeing a need in older refugees who were at risk of poor educational outcomes, we developed the College Boost programme for 16-25 year olds. We focus on providing support around young people’s mental health and wellbeing and the many challenges they face in education.’
The funding provided by us at the City & Guilds Foundation has allowed PYF to support 59 young people on the 12-month College Boost programme to-date. As well as developing language skills and supporting with gaining qualifications and skills, the programme is also contributing to young people making friends and helping them to integrate into society.
Programme participant, Abdirahman Saleebaan agrees:
‘I was struggling to speak with other people and I was a shy person. But now I feel confident to speak to other people.’
Due to the success of the partnership, PYF has been able to recruit a teacher with a background of teaching English as a Second Language (ESOL) to work as a staff member and youth worker, and this has led to huge improvements in students’ reading, writing, and spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPAG) abilities.
Alongside the ESOL activity, young people are provided with additional support in applying for college places, interview preparation, job hunting and CV writing skills. They have also been given the opportunity to attend trips and a small number were invited to attend the University of Oxford to participate in a research project exploring the challenges facing newly arrived young people.
College Boost participant Hawraa Sadoun is clear about her own career ambition of becoming a physicist:
‘Joining PYF they really encourage us and support us with our dreams so it really helped me to know how to reach my goal and how to be a physicist.’
PYF even organised a Graduation Ceremony for learners on completion of their programme to give the young people and their families the opportunity to recognise their hard work and celebrate their achievements.
From the 59 young people who have undertaken the programme, 12 are now in jobs and many of the other learners have gone on to attend local colleges. Six learners are also volunteering for PYF on other programmes.
Not one for resting on their laurels though, PYF are busy planning the next programme launch for early 2024 and through additional funding from the Foundation they are looking to develop a City & Guilds accredited training and development programme to upskill and train professionals on how to support refugee and migrant young people in and out of education.
As Sana Afzil, Function Skills Officer and ESOL teacher at the charity clearly articulates, it’s not just the programme attendees who have learnt something from the programme:
‘I may have been the teacher, however I’ve also learned so much from our young people. The three things that I’ve learnt are to be hard working, to never give up and to be patient.’
You can watch the College Boost Graduation Ceremony: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-Hkfb3-kOs
And, read more about Positive Youth Foundation’s inspirational work: https://www.positiveyouthfoundation.org/
We are so proud to be supporting Positive Youth Foundation and look forward to seeing the impact that the programme will continue to have on their direct and indirect beneficiaries.