Young people in the Black Country are benefiting from a project which aims to tackle the large number of 16 to 18 year olds not in employment, education or training (NEET).

According to figures released by the government recently, one in six 18 year-olds in Britain is NEET, but across the West Midlands more than 7000 young people at risk of dropping out of education, training or employment are being supported by the Learning and Skills Council and West Midlands Leaders Board’s Regional European Social Fund (ESF) Programme.

Steps to Work, based in Wolverhampton, has been running the Kickstart:Life project since September of last year, in partnership with the Black Country Training Group. The ESF-backed project is available at no cost to the learner, making it entirely accessible to those who need it. The aim of the project is to break down social barriers, improve learners’ self-esteem and confidence, and help them to develop positive attitudes towards learning and employment.

The ESF-backed project is currently supporting 27 learners, with some already progressing on to further education, employment or training programmes. Contending with his learning difficulties, Ryan found concentrating in school a struggle and he lacked confidence. He was referred to Steps to Work after leaving school and was enrolled in the Kickstart:Life programme.

Ryan says: “The project really helped me build my confidence. Before I never felt comfortable trying new things, but with my tutor’s support I am now happy to try anything.”

Steve Powell at Steps to Works says: “The project was set up to reach out to those that need a helping hand. Many of the young people with Kickstart:Life benefit particularly from the one to one support we offer and this boosts their confidence and drives them on to fulfil their potential.”

Learners who are referred to Kickstart:Life are those registered as not in education, employment or training (NEET), and are identified as vocationally challenged or hardest to help. This includes teenage parents, young carers, substance misusers and young offenders. Kickstart:Life focuses on those that need the most support and encouragement to go forward and progress with their lives with confidence.