The latest batch of young people from a pioneering back-to-work program have graduated from the course.
Off the Bench, a 12-week project funded by the Scottish Government’s CashBack fund, is aimed at young people looking for their next positive step.
It is run in partnership with the SPFL Trust at five clubs across Scotland, including St Mirren.
And the second cohort of 12 people aged between 16 and 24 have now completed their course and enjoyed a special celebration at the Bowfield Hotel in Howwood.
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Gayle Brannigan, CEO of St Mirren Charitable Foundation, said it was a very rewarding program for everyone involved.
“It’s a really unique programme. It’s intense, there are a lot of one-to-one sessions.
“It’s for people who are maybe from disadvantaged backgrounds who have fallen out of love with education, not been able to get a job and who need additional support.
“We help them with all different aspects from their own personal development, their mental health and wellbeing and job and interview skills.
“And the support doesn’t stop when the course does. We keep the WhatsApp groups open so that people can continue to have support from us and each other.”
The participants work towards a Level 4 SQA Employability Award, SFA coaching badge and receive support into employment, volunteering, or further education.
All 12 young people stayed the term of the course this time and Gayle said they’ve all ended up in positive destinations.
“They completed their qualification so they all have their SQA Saltire Awards. Some have gone into an apprenticeship in the area they wanted to do, others have re-engaged with education, others have part-time or full-time jobs. All of them have done something or have got a plan.
“One girl got a job with Pace in Paisley helping with their sets which is fantastic.
“It’s so rewarding to see.”
Off the Bench works with various partner agencies including the Department for Work and Pensions and community police. Gayle also thanked Manorview Hotels, owners of the Bowfield Hotel, and Joe Aitken of Pie Sports, for their support.
Dates are already set for the next two intakes for Off the Bench, July 4 then August 22.
Young people aged 16-24 are referred to the program and in previous years have been referred by the police, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service, social work departments, the Job Centre, high schools and a range of public and third sector agencies. Self-referral is not possible.
It is for young people who aren’t in education, employment or training and are yet to figure out their next positive step.
It’s also suited for people interested in football and making a difference in their local community.
Anyone interested in finding out more can email [email protected] for more details.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.