The Manchester College teams up with the Prince’s Trust to get the ‘Class of Covid’ back on track

Manchester College have joined forced with the Princes Trust to help the 'Class of Covid' rebuild their confidence following the pandemic
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The pandemic might not be affecting us all in the same way it was when it first arrived in the UK.

But many young people have become known as the ‘Class of Covid.’ For some it was an opportunity to reset and reboot, and they received immense support from their school or college.

For others, it was an alienating experience, and some young people would turn up to an online classroom and there was no-one there and they were told to read slides and they ended up teaching themselves. The problem is if no-one taught you these independent skills prior to Covid, this meant that you may have ended up failing your course, feeling a mixture of rejection and self-doubt leaving you thinking ‘what now?’

According to a recent survey about life post pandemic and how it has affected us, the results suggested that 2.8 million young people don’t think that their job prospects will recover following the pandemic.

And this is where The Prince’s Trust steps in, as they offer free programmes for young people which help to build confidence, support them in getting a job and starting their own business.

I had heard of the great work that The Prince’s Trust carry out within communities but 7 years ago, I became even more aware of the work they do. One of my former students sadly lost his life to knife crime. He had always wanted to set up his own business and run a Caribbean restaurant and I wanted this brilliant young person to be remembered for this, as opposed to the way he died.

So, I set up a crowdfunder with all the contributions going towards The Prince’s Trust in this student’s name, so that young people like him could be supported. We raised over £500, and it meant that friends and family had somewhere to leave a message in memory of him. And all the money we raised went towards fulfilling another young person’s dreams of running their own business.

Do you know of anyone that due the pandemic or other reasons, has ended up out of work and needs support?

The Manchester College runs courses with The Prince’s Trust, initially at their Wythenshawe Campus, leading to a residential.

The Team Programme is a 12-week full time course, and it is designed to build confidence, in order for young people to become more independent and self-reliant. No formal qualifications are required to enrol.

The opportunities provided by this course are immense and this includes work placements, taking part in a residential with the rest of the group and the programme co-ordinators, planning meals for everyone who attends, and it culminates with everyone delivering a presentation which they have written themselves.

The format of the course follows a step programme, and the skills are developed over a short period of time.

Day 1: Meet new people
Students are told to not worry about turning up on their own – The group will consist of about 12 people, and everyone is in the same situation. Day One is informal and there are plenty of activities so that everyone feels feel part of the group.

Week 1: Take action
Over this week, the group will start planning for the weeks ahead – setting out what they want to achieve and finding out how to get their qualifications.

Week 2: New experiences
Residential – one week away – trying new things and learning how to work with others. This gives the young people a chance to break away from their current situation – trying canoeing, climbing, raft-building and much more.

Weeks 3-6: Something to talk about
As a Team, they decide on a project to benefit their local community and carry it out. This gives them great experience to talk about at interviews.

Weeks 7-8: Work placements
This is the time to see how their skills that they have developed so far can help them in the workplace. It’s also a great chance to try out a type of work, or company, to see whether they like it.

Week 9: Plan for the future
Support is provided to write a fantastic CV, practice your interview skills and write applications.

Weeks 10-11: Meet the challenge
The Team will take on a challenge to help others in the community. This is when they get to test out all the skills they have developed.

Week 12: Have your say
In the final week, the young people deliver a presentation – giving you them chance to show off the talents they have discovered! After 12 weeks, the young people are often surprised at how far they have come.

This course is delivered in partnership with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, the Team programme takes place at a number of locations with start dates available throughout the year.

I have seen the impact that this great course on a young person, as I met one of the current students recently who dropped out of education during the pandemic.

Hatim Ahmed is 18 and he felt disconnected due to education as a result of badly designed online lessons, and he was demotivated. He was often left to his own devices and not given the support that he and every young person deserves. His mum knew about the Prince’s Trust, and she persuaded him to find out some more.

“I went along with my mum to the job centre, as she had mentioned the Prince’s Trust to me before,” explains Hatim.

“I had to redo my Maths and that was one of the biggest things for me and Rome – an Assistant Team Leader from the Prince’s Trust helped and advised me with that. He put me on the right course to do that whilst I was on the Team programme.”

With regards to his Maths, Hatim’s confidence had started to dip because of his poor experiences of education during Covid.

“I felt like I had lost my skills. I felt like I was out of touch but as I started to slowly learn, I also began to teach myself, so I became my own teacher whilst I was there. I also learned about my own time management skills from the main course with The Prince’s Trust,” he says.

Following people’s experiences living with the stop/start effects of Covid, one thing that needs rebuilding for many is their confidence. Hatim has always been a quietly confident and determined young man prior to this course. But the Prince’s Trust Team Programme is designed to give people the chance to become more assured, even in unfamiliar situations.

“I have found myself being more understanding of people’s feelings, as you are put with a group of people you do not know on a residential. I was literally in the ‘deep end’ leading this group as I was a team leader in a canoe,” he explains.

Hatim has since realised that these tasks can be applied directly to the workplace, even though you don’t fully realise this at the time.

“When you get thrown in the deep end, it motivates you to do even better. I have noticed that you ‘learn to swim much better in the deep end’ – it is like getting a cold shower. Everything I was worried about disappeared in seconds. The course has been much more eye opening than I expected.”

Hatim has recently completed a placement at a new theatre company Switch_Mcr in Digital Media, and marketing is something that is a genuine interest of his, having seen his mum do really well in this career through her hard work and persistence, when he was young.

“This work placement was for a theatre company, and I have been back in the deep end as this was a world that was unfamiliar to me.”

Hatim is grateful to the team at Switch Mcr, led by Artistic Director and actor Gabriel Clark, as he was given great opportunities, such as gaining an insight into how this young and vibrant company works well as a team. He says: “I was nervous when I first arrived at the placement, however after meeting the team I would be working with, I felt much more at ease. They were very helpful and wanted to see what how they could support me with my career ambitions.”

Hatim knows now that his inner voice is out there for everyone to see and hear and he has become outwardly more confident, and he is willing to try new things, far more than before.

“When you put yourself in uncomfortable positions and learn to be comfortable, then anything is possible”, he says.

He has done so much in less than three months and the course has increased his chances of finding employment or an apprenticeship tenfold.

So what advice would Hatim give to someone to someone who may want to take the plunge and contact the Prince’s Trust but they have feelings of anxiousness and fear of the unknown. Hatim felt exactly the same. He is a keen chess player, and he likens these feelings to that game.

He says: “Life is like a game chess, every single decision you make will always have a positive and negative impact no matter the outcome. However hesitant you may be to make certain decisions; you will never truly progress until you make the first move”.

There are more details on the Prince’s Trust courses starting  this month at The Manchester College in Wythenshawe here.

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