Blog post

The special relationship: Young people and their ThinkForward coach

Coaching photo sized for blog post

These days everyone has a coach, I have one, my colleagues have one, my friends have one, even Richard Branson has one, and now young people can have one too.  Like wheels on suitcases, it’s amazing how long it has taken to realise that this is a good idea, that young people can benefit from having a go-to person, a constant, a confidante and a single point of contact who will help open doors and opportunities.  For young people this is potentially transformative.

ThinkForward is leading the way in early intervention coaching. Beginning the coaching relationship with 13 and 14 year olds, and based full-time in a school, coaches are able to support young people who are at a high risk of dropping out of education, employment and training, to develop the attitudes, mind-sets, and the self-efficacy they need to succeed in the often difficult transition to post-16 education and employment.

A ThinkForward coach is not quite the same as those in the corporate world or life coaching, although they do have many things in common. ThinkForward coaches ask the young people challenging questions, ensuring that the responsibility for their choices and the subsequent consequences remains with the young person. Coaches provide support with unpacking complex and sticky issues, helping young people set goals and realise their best course of action, but they are so much more as well.

Not a teacher, parent or social worker, a ThinkForward coach is an older person in a young person’s life. A caring adult with high standards with whom they can have an enduring relationship.

The coach works closely with each young person to identify their needs, work out how best to meet them, and stands side-by-side with them while they navigate over the many hurdles, intrinsic and extrinsic, towards a stable and successful future. Some will need their metaphorical hand held the whole way, while others may just need to be pointed in the right direction.

The coaching relationship lasts for five years during which time the young person forges and traverses their individual path to further education and eventual employment. Coaches deliver a potent and bespoke combination of one-to-one support and targeted workshops, as well as creating opportunities for work experience and facilitating business mentoring relationships – all designed to better connect young people with the world of work. In addition to signposting, referring to and liaising with other service providers that can also support the young person to overcome barriers to their success.

Five years is a long time to develop a meaningful relationship, from the initial rapport building, through to reluctant cooperation and eventually enthusiastic alliance, this unique relationship is at its strongest when there is a mutual respect, understanding and perhaps most importantly – trust. The coach is willing to challenge the young person about their behaviour and their decisions whilst not excepting anything less than the young person taking full personal responsibility for their life, their choices and their own future.

Only with trust does this openness and frankness between the coach and the young person become accepted and flourish. It is these essential ingredients that support a young person on their journey; from dis-engagement and low aspirations, through to self-awareness, finding motivation, deciding upon direction, developing skills, securing qualifications and eventually moving into sustainable employment and personal success.