Working with employers to broker employment opportunities is an important facet of the Talent Coach role.
Although based in Skelmersdale, Fibrem operate across Greater Manchester.
Fibrem came to The Broughton Trust as they had heard about their reputation for working with marginalised young people and wanted to work in partnership with a ‘grass roots’ organisation.
Neil, who had previously provided work experience opportunities for beneficiaries of a homeless charity in Liverpool, said that The Broughton Trust had ‘opened his eyes’ to the numbers of young people who are hidden.
Neil said: “We understand that there are people out there who just want an opportunity – a chance to prove themselves in a working environment and get a first step on the employment ladder.”
Neil’s partnership with The Broughton Trust means that the young people he takes on paid placements arrive with a certain degree ‘work readiness’.
The Trust use training providers to help young people secure a Health and Safety in a Construction Environment qualification. Young people are also supported to pass the CITB Health, Safety and Environment test. Both of these elements are a prerequisite for applying for a Green CSCS Labourer Card. The card serves as a kind of ‘passport’; allowing individuals to work on construction sites in entry-level positions. The Broughton Trust pay the application fee for young people to secure their card.
At this point young people are ready to commence placement with Fibrem. These typically last for eight weeks.
“Because we are often the principal contractor on site we control the makeup of the workforce – we can offer a chance to these young people who may have limited or no work experience” said Neil.
On placement, the young people gain exposure to a lot of different tasks.
“This keeps young people’s attention,” said Neil.
“Internal strip-out actually falls under the construction umbrella and there is a lot young people can get involved with.”
Neil admits that there is no getting away from the fact that tasks are hard work and take place in dusty, dirty environments. This is where the relationship with The Broughton Trust offers Neil reassurance.
“The Trust convey the realities of the work to young people ahead of starting. This can help to prevent dropout – this can be a big problem with people who come through an agency: they don’t know what the work will involve and are not prepared for what’s in stall.”
Neil encourages his permanent staff to look out for young people on placement - to make them feel part of the team.
“We always make sure the guys on placement are asked out for team meals. There was one young lad who liked to keep himself to himself - came to work with headphones on. He’d have them on again at lunch time. I got the lads he was working with to encourage him to join them for lunches. Slowly, he came out of his shell.”
Neil said that he uses the placements to try and spot potential – with an eye to keeping people on. However he admitted this presents a Catch 22 situation.
“We’d love to, but we can’t keep everyone on who shows promise. We are looking to grow our permanent staff of 18 but keeping on everyone with potential would mean we would no longer be able to offer placements. The beauty of the placement is, it can propel people on to further work. When people start earning, the wage packet becomes a massive driver (young people are paid weekly in arrears). They want to keep bringing the money in.”
Dave Mayers, Talent Coach at The Broughton Trust, sees the massive benefit placements have on young people.
“There are many young people out there who just need the opportunity to prove themselves. Without companies like Fibrem giving young people a chance they would never have this opportunity,” Dave said.
“As Neil says, he needs the young people to have a degree of work readiness - and that’s where we as coaches come in. We will mentor the young people through the relevant training and prepare them in the best way that we can. We try our best to remove any barriers. A young person needs work boots; we will buy them, a young person needs support with travel to work; we will pay for it.
“We even take young people to work on the first morning. This gives us a chance to speak to them on the way to settle any nerves and ensures they know exactly where the site is so they arrive on time on the first morning. By the second day ‘the fear of the unknown’ has disappeared and they exactly where the site is so that they can plan their journey accordingly.
“We have had some great successes. For some it has been a valuable stepping stone into moving into employment elsewhere in the construction industry: one young person moved onto an apprenticeship and one has worked with Fibrem long term.”