Course to help school leavers find a job or career

Young people unsure of what they would like to do after GCSEs are being offered the chance to try a variety of vocational courses in just a few days.

To help 16 to 18-year-olds, Norfolk County Council's adult education centre Wensum Lodge, in King Street, Norwich, opened its doors to give them the chance to find out about its Step On taster programme.

The courses, beginning in Norwich, King's Lynn and Holt throughout September, give young people the chance to find out about different skills and learning options over the space of a week or a fortnight before committing to a longer period of learning in the vocational area of their choice.

On the Step On programme, learners have the opportunity to experience areas as diverse as hairdressing, construction, motor vehicle engineering, sport, childcare, ICT, creative art, countryside skills and music.

The free programme is run by Norfolk County Council's adult education services in partnership with the Blue Cat Initiative and Norwich City Community Sports Foundation, and became available at the start of the last academic year. It is aimed at young people not in employment, education or training, many of whom at the beginning of the course do not know what training or career they would like to pursue.

Jill Bazire, strategic manager for young people's programmes, said: 'It's incredibly tough for young people to get a college place and to get a job is really, really difficult. Some of the young people we work with come out of school with few qualifications, so for them it's even harder.'

Heather Habbin, business development manager for young people, said the courses were focused on 'learning without walls' and were aimed at showing young people that continuing their education did not have to be about sitting in classrooms and could instead be something more hands-on and practical.

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There are already success stories from students who took part in the first year of courses, with many going on to secure apprenticeships and jobs.

Mrs Habbin said: 'There are Step On courses throughout September and courses start at Christmas or in April, so there's no need for young peole to feel that they have missed out if they aren't signed up to something by now.'

One person already helped by the programme is Charlotte Reilly, who followed the traditional route of staying on at sixth form, but she soon found that it was not for her.

The 18-year-old former Thorpe St Andrew School pupil said: 'I got really good results at GCSEs, but I had to do four A-levels and I really only wanted to do art and French. 'I chose psychology and geography, but it was a bit of a rush to choose my options.

'I was told if I didn't pass all my AS-levels I couldn't carry on to full A-levels. It put me off art at the time because I had so much art work to do on top of all the other lessons.'

In the end Charlotte dropped out of sixth form.

She said: 'I heard about these courses through one of my friends and went along and found out more about the Step On course.

'That was helpful because I wasn't sure what I wanted to go in to. We got to try everything and and it helped me decide what I wanted to do. 'I found that I excelled with art and I want to go on to do art and teaching art.'

For more information about the Step On taster programme, contact adult education services on 07827 662429 or 01603 306429, email or visit adulteducation.

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