Focus: Frontline - Shaw Trust Young People's Service

WHAT IT IS

The Young People's Service is the youth education arm of the Shaw Trust, a national organisation that provides employment services for disabled and disadvantaged people.

WHAT IT DOES

It trains 14-to-16-year-olds in work skills, pinpoints their likes and dislikes, then liaises with local businesses to find suitable work placements.

HOW IT IS FUNDED

With grants from local education authorities in the Midlands, Lincolnshire and Hampshire.

WHEN 15-year-old Karl Smith was turfed out of school two years ago, his father, Graham, thought it was the beginning of the end. "He was getting into so much trouble, I was convinced he'd be in prison by the time he was 16," he says.

Karl has a rare eye condition that makes it hard for him to decipher letters and numbers. "He'd get behind with his school work, get teased and then lose it. He'd do that simply because he was frustrated," says Graham.

Garden centre placement

Karl is taking part in the Basingstoke Schools Plus programme in Hampshire, a nine-month-old project that provides education for 61 14-to-16-year-olds who have special needs or have been permanently excluded from school.

It is run by the Basingstoke Schools Plus scheme in conjunction with the Shaw Trust Young People's Service.

Training and placement officers Louise Sargent and Margaret McCarthy found him a work placement at North Waltham Wyevale Garden Centre. "It differs from the usual school-based work experience because we aim for real-life long-term placements," explains Sargent. "It should lead to a job, training, an apprenticeship or a reference at the very least."

When Karl mentioned that he "quite liked growing vegetables", the team decided that working at the local garden centre would help. "It has been his making," says McCarthy.

Horticulture apprenticeship

Half a day each week at Wyevale soon progressed to two days a week. Now Shaw Trust is helping Karl, who spends three days a week at another school, to apply for a modern apprenticeship in horticulture at Sparsholt College, Hampshire. His ambition is to be a landscape gardener.

"We don't recognise our Karl as the lad who had a rocky time at school," says Dave Levick, manager of Wyevale in North Waltham. "He's a lovely lad: keen, and a privilege to work with."

Karl credits the turnaround to his placement: "At school, I was forever being told off, but now people tell me I'm doing well."

"He has a great attitude," says Levick. "If Shaw Trust can find another person like Karl, we'll take them like a shot."

Graham Willgoss, graham.willgoss@haynet.com

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