Our ThinkForward programme works with hard to reach, disengaged young people in Tower Hamlets and Islington in London, Nottingham, and Kent. We established in London in 2011, expanded to Nottingham in 2016 and set up in Kent in 2017. ThinkForward has coaches in 18 schools, six in each location.
The young people typically come from backgrounds that are disadvantaged in multiple ways. We deliberately work with those identified as being most at risk of unemployment, with all the negative impacts that then has on their life chances. We use a scoring mechanism that measures attainment, behaviour, attendance and other factors such as being in care or on free school meals.
ThinkForward is unique because we run the only programme of its kind that works with young people for five years, starting when they are 13, in Year 9.
Our highly-skilled coaches build consistent, trusted relationships with young people through one-to-one coaching and group work sessions. Students’ progress is tracked along seven ‘ready for work’ capabilities which we believe are key in preparing them for employment. They are: Self-assurance, self-awareness, drive, receptivity, resilience and organisational and communication skills. Brought together, these ‘soft skills’ help to equip young people for the workplace.
Crucially, ThinkForward also offers young people a range of opportunities to connect with, and get experience of, the world of work. These essential activities include business mentoring, insight days, CV writing and interview skills workshops, and work placements.
By partnering with a range of businesses from local employers through to large, national companies we provide young people with relevant exposures to the workplace, in many cases bridging a gap that family and community networks are not able to provide.
Our business mentoring programme partners each of our 18 schools with a local employer, and staff volunteers mentor Year 10 students. They build meaningful relationships, share their experiences, impact advice and encouragement and break down barriers to the world of work. 180 young people take part every year.
We also run a mentoring programme for older students following their GCSEs. Mentors support young people in a very practical way to achieve their career goals, for example through interview practice, fine tuning CVs and applying for jobs online. More than 100 young people are currently taking part.
Both mentoring programmes recognise the huge benefit to young people of meeting regularly with, and learning from, a working professional person.
Two cohorts of young people graduated from our five-year programme in 2015 and 2016 and 80% of them were in education, employment or training upon leaving the programme.
Our approach is effective and shows that we can, in many cases, overcome the fundamental obstacles our students face, enabling them to gain the life and work skills, experiences, aspiration and confidence they need to succeed.