Thursday 25 Jan
Updated Thursday 25 Jan 13:15

Foundation providing unique employability pathway

PL Works

When West Ham United’s Foundation was first set up over 25 years ago, one of it’s key aims was to provide opportunities for young people across East London and Essex. That goal has not changed, and over the last few years the commitment has increased – with more people than ever before now benefitting from the employability work in the community that the Foundation deliver.

Funded through Talent Match and PL Works, the Foundation’s Employability Pathway includes a range of bespoke mentoring and support providing 16 – 24 year olds opportunities to enhance their chances in life.

The programme provides truly life changing opportunities for a significant number of young people aged 16 – 24 yrs. Many of the participants come from some of London’s most deprived and diverse communities.

One of those young people, Dana McWilson, hasn’t looked back since she joined the Employability programme at the Foundation.

“I’ve loved every minute of being involved with West Ham United’s Foundation. I have gained confidence, gained skills and met loads of new people.”

“I always thought I’d like to start my own business in natural cosmetics, but never really knew exactly how or where to start. The mentors at the Foundation have given me some amazing advice, and I’m now confident enough to give it a go. I can’t thank them enough!”

Dana PLworks

The Foundation’s Employability Pathway provides a unique model, offering a personalised approach to engaging and developing participants. Through working with specialist advisors on a weekly basis, personal development plans are produced for all individuals. This results in a bespoke programme tailored to the needs of the individual. As part of the project there are also regular larger group sessions that allow participants to interact with peers in a supportive and safe environment.

John Akon, Employability Co-Ordinator at the West Ham United Foundation believes they have made fantastic strides in their offering to young people. “The personalised approach allows barriers to be tackled that may otherwise restrict participants’ success. Some of the barriers that participants regularly face are; Homelessness, financial issues, substance misuse, criminal background lower attainments, looked after children, range of disabilities, local gangs, postcode issues and mental health issues.”

Through a recognition that when starting the programme many of the participants are a significant distance from the jobs market or engaging with education and training, the Foundation are able to tailor the approach to ensure it is the best for the participant.

So far, over 120 young people have worked with the Foundation on the employability programme, with 100% showing improved confidence, self-esteem and employment skills.

With a range of local employers and partners involved - Barclays Capital, Premier League, PFA, Football Association, Community Links, London Youth, City Gateway, Canary Wharf Group, Prince’s Trust, Youth Offending Service to name just a few – there is a genuine joined-up approach to the programme with all local stakeholders.

Participants have also been able to work directly within the Foundation, and over 20 of them now work as sessional paid staff – giving a direct pathway into employment in football.

Jesse Foyle, Head of Learning at the West Ham United Foundation, is proud of the progress being made: “It has been fantastic to see just how far our Employability Pathway has grown in a relatively short space of time. When you meet the young people who we are engaged with such as Dana, you can see the impact we are having directly. She is just one example of many who our work has resulted in improved skillset and confidence – meaning they can now move forward into employment.”

For Dana, she is clear about how much the Foundation has helped her. “I simply wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for the Foundation and the Employability Pathway. I’d encourage any young person in the area who is at a loose end or feels stuck with their prospects to get in touch with West Ham United’s Foundation and start their journey today!”