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Care leaversEmployment and training

Supporting care leavers into apprenticeships

Portrait of a young man looking directly at the camera.

Delivered by Catch22 and The Children’s Society and funded by The Clothworker’s Foundation, Bright Light is a programme that supports care leavers into apprenticeships. The following piece describes the journey of one young man who has secured an apprenticeship with Facilities Management company Arcus FM.

Joel* is 20 and a care leaver.  He has no GCSEs and low functional skill qualifications and has had a difficult and challenging upbringing.  Despite these difficulties he is a talented, determined and resilient young man.  Thanks to the Bright Light programme, and the forward thinking of Facilities Management company Arcus FM, Joel’s career prospects are looking bright.

Allison Hughes is Partnership Development Manager at The Children’s Society and works on the Bright Light programme. She explains:

“My role is to identify companies who might have apprenticeship opportunities for the care leavers on the Bright Light programme. We’d just gone into lockdown and I was doing some internet research. I came across Arcus FM. I could see from their website that they had quite a few apprenticeship vacancies. They also mentioned that they invest heavily in colleague training and encourage applications from underserved groups, including ex-offenders. It seems like they were a company with a conscience.”

The apprenticeship vacancies that Arcus FM had included one in South London – something that Allison felt would match the skills of some of the care leavers of the programme:

“The young people I had in mind were very practically minded and wanted roles where they’d be out and about. These apprenticeships looked ideal.”

Lisa Jardim, Learning and Engagement Manager at Arcus FM received Allison’s email. Within a few days, a meeting was set up with the Director of Learning and Communication for them to hear more about Bright Light and the care leavers on the programme.

Allison explains:

“The Arcus FM team were really interested in our care leavers. But there were some obvious challenges that meant our candidates couldn’t readily apply for the apprenticeship roles. Firstly, a prerequisite for the apprenticeship was a driving licence, but very few of the care leavers on Bright Light are able to drive. Secondly, there were certain qualifications required which our care leavers didn’t have. I left the call thinking that there were probably too many hurdles to overcome.”

After some careful consideration with the HR team, Arcus FM agreed to adapt the apprenticeship eligibility criteria and interview the three care leavers, including Joel, that Bright Light put forward for apprenticeship roles.

Maggie Lawlor is Joel’s Career Coach. She remembers:

“We prepared diligently for the interview with mock interviews, training around personal presentation and employers expectations.  Together we considered the practicalities of taking the role, including completing a better off calculation around his finances relating to travel, subsistence and rent.

“Joel really wanted the role but was concerned because of his lack of qualifications as well as a lack of work and social experience.  This was Joel’s first ever interview and he was nervous but excited about the opportunity. He’s so resilient and also very bright, inquisitive and has a positive attitude; a perfect combination for an employer.”

The three candidates attended the interview – and feedback was excellent; thorough and very personal.

The first candidate wasn’t successful, the second did well but there were issues with his immigration status. The third, Joel, performed well at interview but the panel felt a full apprenticeship might be a bit overwhelming for him. He’d not worked before and had experienced various challenges throughout his life.

Arcus FM suggested that a work experience placement might be a better option for him. The work experience, with on the job training, included £20-£30 per day in expenses.

It was the Friday before Joel was due to start his work experience the following Monday. He was contacted by his Leaving Care Personal Advisor who informed him that his accommodation situation was changing.  Joel would need a full time job in order to pay for his rent. He couldn’t afford to take up the work experience opportunity.

Allison explains:

“I wasn’t looking forward to calling Arcus FM to tell them that Joel couldn’t take up the work experience placement. They had worked hard to open up the opportunity for him. But I needn’t have worried; when I spoke to Lisa she told me to leave it with her.”

Lisa went back to the Operations Manager who had prepared for Joel’s work experience at Arcus FM.

Lisa said:

“We were so disappointed and really wanted to be able to do something for him at this incredibly difficult time in his life.”

There was still an apprentice opportunity available – and Joel was offered the role.

Allison remembers:

“We were jumping up and down here in the Bright Light team. We knew Joel could do the job, but also that on paper he wasn’t the ideal candidate. The fact that Arcus FM – and particularly Lisa and the Operations Manager – bent over backwards to make this work was incredibly heartening.”

Joel is now eight weeks into his apprenticeship and doing incredibly well. He has a lengthy commute (1 ½ hours each way) and doesn’t hold a driving license, let alone own a vehicle. Arcus FM has paid for his driving lessons with a view to providing him with his own van once he passes his test. He’s also receiving fantastic on the job training and is set up for a sustainable career.

Maggie said:

“I’ve no doubt that Joel will flourish in his new role – not only because he’s a really capable lad, but because he knows what opportunities Arcus FM has opened up for him and that he can have a lifelong career when his apprenticeship has finished.”

*Name has been changed to preserve anonymity