The Social Switch Project has received £200,000 in funding from London’s Violence Reduction Unit (VRU), set up by the Mayor of London, to deliver the next phase of its mission to divert young people at risk of exposure to violence towards sustainable digital careers.
The pilot project, backed by Google.org, and delivered by social business Catch22 and youth violence charity Redthread, offers young Londoners three weeks of free full-time training in digital skills and provides intensive career support post-programme.
The programme utilises Catch22’s experience of working with the most at risk or vulnerable young people in the UK, and supporting them into meaningful careers, and Redthread’s expertise of training frontline professionals.
City Hall’s Violence Reduction Unit has committed to six months of funding for The Social Switch Project which will train an additional 24 young Londoners in digital careers.
The Social Switch Project has already trained 40 young people (50:50 male: female, and 81% BAME) in digital skills and provides intensive career support post-programme.
17-year-old Anthony Owuso-Ansah completed the training in November 2019 and has since secured a marketing apprenticeship at Google.
“Digital platforms give young people opportunities regardless of any situation. Young people could still network, grow personal brands, learn and self-educate, and even find jobs despite being restricted from doing these things in person. I even had my Google interview digitally.
“I also want to use it as an opportunity to inspire other young people, especially from Wandsworth where I’m from, to see that you can be successful regardless of your circumstances. Taking on this role is not just about me furthering my career, it’s about me growing a following and platform to inspire young people.”
Lib Peck, Director of London’s Violence Reduction Unit, said:
“We are determined to invest in programmes that provide positive and long-lasting opportunities for young Londoners. This is more important than ever because of the profound impact COVID-19 has had on our young people.
“London’s Violence Reduction Unit is focused on addressing the complex causes which lie behind young people becoming involved with, or being victims of violent crime. That’s why we are investing in the Social Switch Project, which supports young people in building their creative and digital skills and which will continue to help many more young Londoners reach their true potential.”
14 of the young people trained by The Social Switch Project are already in employment, an apprenticeship or in a work experience programme; three have entered further training; and the remaining continue to get intensive career support, at a time that is particularly stressful for young people.
Christina Hicks, programme lead for The Social Switch Project, said:
“There are too many young people in London at risk of violence, both in their homes and on their streets, because they see no future outside of the environment they have grown up in.
“We have successfully delivered this training to 40 young people in London now, over three cohorts, the last of which was delivered online due to COVID-19. And the results speak for themselves – there were improvements against every outcome indicator, including dramatic increases in self-esteem and self confidence for the people we work with.
“By giving these young people a real opportunity to upskill and launch a career, particularly during such a distressing time, we know The Social Switch Project can change the course of these young peoples’ lives.”
The Social Switch Project also trains frontline professionals, such as teachers, social workers, and youth workers, in dealing with the challenges young people face online through an intensive one-day course. More than 500 practitioners have now completed the training, including during the COVID-19 lockdown, with 92% reporting an increased understanding of how young people interact online, and 90% having an improved understanding of best practice for working with young people online.
The recent Youth Violence Committee Final Report highlighted concerns about the increasing risk to young people as they head back to school next month. The VRU funding will support the expansion of this training too, offering more targeted support for London’s teachers and social workers.