Paul Fletcher is a Community Jobs Scotland employer with Achieve More Scotland. Here he shares his experience of the CJS programme:
“We’re a community based youth organisation that works across areas of West Central Scotland, using sport and physical activity, youth work, volunteering and employability opportunities to work with young people aged 5 to 24 to fundamentally improve their life chances. That takes the form of improving their confidence and self-esteem, making them more employable, and for a lot of them just letting them turn up, play football, dance, do gymnastics, make new friends, break down territorial barriers and make their lives more enjoyable.
“We’ve probably been involved with CJS for five or six years and we’ve taken on two dozen young people in that time – it’s been massively successful. It’s allowed us to do more work and help more young people in the communities we work in. When we first started with CJS we were working with around 500 young people a week – we’re now working with over 2,500 every week. We work with a range of young people – ex offenders, those with experience of homelessness, young people from across the world who speak English as a second, third or fourth language – and the difference it has made to us as an organisation and to the young people we support is massive.
“We see massive changes in the young people we take on. Their confidence and self-esteem improves, and the way they feel about themselves and what they can achieve. A lot of the young people we’re selecting who have come through CJS have come from really turbulent backgrounds and struggle with different issues, from mental and physical health to criminal pasts and involvement with alcohol and drugs. The young people who come through are then becoming senior role models to the young people that they’re working with and then they’re progressing through the whole organisation and ultimately running the charity. Around 95% of them pass through fantastically well – the majority of them are still employed with us. The ones who haven’t tend to go on to college, university or other full time employment.
“Thanks to CJS we can offer more services, a wider range of activities and we’re working with more young people. What we’ve found with a lot of CJS employees is that when they first come in they might be quite shy and timid, but they gain confidence and realise they’ve got more skills than they realised. One employee – Chris – came in as a youth worker, and now leads our digital and marketing side of things, and he’s actually set up his own social enterprise related to recording and filming, and that was something that we had no idea he had an interest or ability in.
“For us as an organisation, taking on CJS employees has allowed us to do so much. For the young people that come through, more often than not it’s their first job, they’re often facing big barriers in their life, and CJS allows us to work with them to overcome those barriers, learn new skills and have new experiences.”