Blue Marble Training - part of the Shoreditch Trust - works with young people whose needs cannot be met by traditional models of education, training and employment, through pastoral support and kitchen-based chef training as they transition into independent living. Here they explain their approach to 'good help'.
We support young people between the ages of 16-25, who are not working, studying or training. Many of those who join the Blue Marble Training programme have often had lots of experiences of ‘bad help’. Generic targets, rigid structures and difficult backgrounds have created an environment which excludes young people who are facing additional challenges.
Blue Marble’s person-centred approach is accessible and successful in engaging with those that other education and training programmes have been unable to support. The programme - run by a project manager, three chefs who facilitate the training, a wellbeing support volunteer, health coach and safeguarding lead - offers practical, skills-based training in the live kitchen of Waterhouse Restaurant. Underpinning this training is a host of support designed to build knowledge and empower young people to transition into independent living. Working in the kitchen, young people are brought into a safe space where they can receive feedback in a conversational and constructive way whilst developing new competencies and learning about themselves through narrative therapy.
We believe key to providing a meaningful setting for learning is our approach to good help which is represented in the following:
Power sharing: fostering a reciprocal professional-to-client environment where staff and young people work together to create necessary conditions for successful development and outcomes.
Tailoring: offering emotional and practical support through a person-centred approach and one-to-one coaching/mentoring designed around each individual.
Role models and support: allowing young people to be the voice of young people. Graduates and programme alumni participate in driving up subscription, headlining events and, with support from staff, leading on group activities and experience learning.
Opportunity making: through our partnership with other restaurants and catering organisations, we broker proven routes into sustainable employment outcomes for our young people.
Those involved in the project encourage the young people to see themselves as their own best authority, setting their own goals and ultimately building confidence to become independent. Although training is based around the skills required to work in a kitchen, in reality it is far broader. The outcomes depend on the individual, and the team is keen to host a programme that builds personal success rather than simply running a training course that can be passed or failed. At the end of the day, the goal is for participants to have more confidence in themselves and their own abilities.
Our ‘good help’ is changing local young people’s attitudes towards engaging with services and motivating them to take some ownership of their circumstances and futures. In 2017, nearly 40% of trainees on the programme had self-referred. The reason for engaging with the programme was that they had seen the positive impact it had on their peers and wanted that for themselves. This shows the true impact of our person-centred approach - allowing outcomes to be driven by each individual and creating a safe and supported environment for growth and personal development to take place.
The impact of our ‘good help’ also includes evidence of a number of outcomes such as:
- improved job outcomes, increased assertiveness/articulation of support needs;
- increased engagement with training;
- increased levels of self-value, confidence, self-worth and self-esteem;
- increased perceptions of safety;
- reduced levels of our young people being victims/perpetrators of crime.
We measure the impact of our support through conversations with the people we work with, peer-led forums and questionnaires administered at different stages of the programme. Data is regularly collected and analysed (guided by our Theory of Change model) to ensure the service is developing in line with the needs determined by the young people themselves, rather than external targets.
Our inspiration for ‘good help’ comes from recognising that young people are not always supported in ways that reflect their lived experiences and circumstances. Disaffected and disengaged young people can be angry and conflictual. They may have a history of gang involvement, youth offending, social isolation and negative experiences of learning. These young people may have been moved from one service to another, unable to settle because of significant worries about working with other young people, trusting adults and conforming to their own preconceived beliefs about engagement. We wanted to change this and create a platform where young people can be part of the solution and be mobilised and inspired to bring about real positive change because we know that young people with high levels of trust and participation are critical to building a society that we would all want to live in.
We are continually inspired by the young people who come through the programme and respond to our approach positively; learning to build resilience when faced with adversity and to apply themselves in a meaningful way. Each small breakthrough an individual makes is a reminder of the different distances individuals need to travel to achieve independence.