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Young people’s pilot scheme offers career lift off

Published on 26 February 2024

An exciting new pilot scheme for young people is already attracting the attention of participants and local employers.

The Didcot Powerhouse Fund, of which Milton Park is a founding member and keen supporter, joined local charity SOFEA and Didcot employers to establish The Powerhouse Pathway partnership.

Its remit was to help satisfy a labour shortage for entry level roles for students aged 16+ in jobs such as catering, office administration, warehousing, and cleaning.

SOFEA works closely with local employers to identify young people that match their role requirements, offering one-year part-time contracts to successful candidates. In addition to paid contracts, SOFEA also offers a bespoke learning programme for employability skills and GCSE retakes. The objective is that the Pathway can offer young people progression, so at the end of the initial contract, the employee may be offered a permanent contract or an apprenticeship opening.

Nando’s in Didcot was one of the first employers to opt into the pilot scheme.

Ria Poliquin-Floyd, Pre-apprenticeship Programme Manager at SOFEA, said: “Nando’s has been such a fantastic partner for our Powerhouse Pathways programme. From their central employability team to the individual restaurant managers and staff, everyone is fully invested in working with us and giving our disadvantaged young people the opportunity to develop their employability skills and, more crucially, build their confidence.”
Joe Black, a pre-apprentice at Nando’s in the Powerhouse Pathways programme, said: “Working for Nando’s is so much fun and my team is so supportive – we all look out for each other. One of the best bits of my job is that you get a free meal with every shift you work and after five years, we all get a sabbatical – can’t wait for that! I’m enjoying learning new things and progressing into new roles at Nando’s. I wouldn’t be doing any of this without SOFEA and Pathways – I’m so grateful for everything that they do.”

Elizabeth Paris, Chair of The Didcot Powerhouse Fund said: “The aspiration for the Didcot Powerhouse Fund is to create more links between businesses and the community than just funding. Powerhouse Pathways is just such an example, and directly responds to concerns raised by local employers about the difficulty of recruiting locally for entry level roles.”

Secondary schools in Didcot have welcomed The Powerhouse Pathway as an exciting new route into employment for some of their students. By working together in partnership and helping young people gain meaningful employment locally, the Pathway can boost career prospects for young people and benefit the local economy and wider regions.

Further STEAM work experience and taster sessions are planned for 2024, as part of the programme’s calendar of events.

The Didcot Powerhouse Fund

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