Trainees at a business which helps young people get back on track have given a thumbs up to the project.
The youths involved says Shetland Community Bike Project has given them skills and confidence for the workplace.
The project has been recognised Scotland-wide and was named Skills Development Scotland’s Youth Employer of the Month for its role in providing employment and volunteering opportunities for young people facing barriers to work. That includes things such as mental health, drug or alcohol-related issues.
Since being set up in 1999, the Shetland Community Bike Project has achieved a 75 per cent success rate in finding work for its trainees once their six-month course is up. The last intake was 100 per cent successful in finding work and were still in employment after six-months, project manager Caroline Adamson said.
Alvar Foster, who was referred by the Jobcentre, and had no previous experience of bike repairing said the project was good fun and should offer real advantages to the young unemployed seeking a job.
He added: “I think the benefits are that it lets people who would not necessarily be very employable get experience working so that they can then go on and have further employment.
“It is a good place for you to go if you have not got much experience. It shows me what having a job is like. If I can get the mindset down then it should probably help with further interviews and gives you general skills. And you can do specific skills if you want a specific job working on bikes.”
Trainees can volunteer to work at the Bike Project or may be referred by any one of a number of agencies, including the Jobcentre, Skills Development Scotland, LifeSkills, CAD, Moving On, Shetland Link Up, the SIC social work department or criminal justice.
Deva Blair-Walker, who has been unemployed since leaving school in 2009, was referred by LifeSkills. “I think it’s amazing,” he said of the Bike Project programme. “It’s interesting. I’d like to get a chance at a job.
“I’d definitely tell anyone [considering the Bike Project] to give it a try.”
Trainees are assessed by funders before starting their training and after completing their six-month placement. “From the funders’ point of view it’s a good follow up to see if there’s an improvement,” said Mrs Adamson.
The kind of placement a trainee gets depends on their circumstances and someone referred by the Jobcentre may have a paid placement. Funding is provided by Shetland Alcohol and Drug Partnership, the Fairer Shetland Fund and Community Jobs Scotland.
The Bike Project can also help trainees who intend to pursue a different line of work and can help with specific training courses such as for getting a forklift “ticket”. Community Jobs Scotland also has a training fund that the Bike Project can tap into.
Mrs Adamson said it was great to be recognised with the award which would hopefully raise more awareness of what went on with the project.
She added: “Many people think we are just a bike repair shop but we are so much more than that.
“The young people we work with have some challenging issues and need a lot of support but it is so rewarding to see them develop and make a positive contribution to the business.
“As an employer you get out what you have put in and it is great to see the young people come out the other end of their experience ready for employment.”
The bike project currently employs five young people with the aim of helping them to develop essential employability skills, such as team work and time keeping, as well as hands-on experience in the repair shop.
The project also helps young people with a range of training opportunities tailored to what they want to do, which has included first aid and driving lessons.
SDS careers coach, Alison Williamson, said: “The Shetland Community Bike Project is a fantastic local resource to support young people facing barriers into employment.
“It provides them with an opportunity to get some paid work and get their life back on track.
“We work closely with the project and have referred some of our customers to Caroline who is always keen to meet and tell them more about what they can offer.”
SDS chairman, John McClelland, added: “I would like to congratulate those involved in the Shetland Community Bike Project for showing an outstanding commitment to supporting youth employment in their local area.
“It shows that no matter how large or small a business is, it can make a difference and help young people into work.”