In a competitive and saturated jobs market it can be a challenge to get a first job, but for some young people it can be an almost insurmountable obstacle. For some a prison sentence or criminal record has put them at a disadvantage, for others it may be poor educational attainment, others still face housing challenges, complex family situations or problems with mental health. In our experience it is often a combination of a number of challenges that result in these young people failing to gain employment.
It is important to point out that it is not for lack of trying, but too regularly these young people are rejected before they can even get an interview. The most recent ONS statistics suggest that around 9% of London’s 16-24 year olds are classed as NEET. We set up London Reclaimed to provide these young people with the opportunity of a first job and a springboard into long term employment.
Since 2012 we have been training and employing young people in Southwark. We believe that running viable businesses gives our young people the best opportunity to gain experience of the realities of work: providing real products to real clients and customers, for a real wage. We started out with one business, now named Goldfinch Furniture, employing and training young people in furniture making and joinery. Goldfinch creates ethical furniture of outstanding quality and provenance. We’ve produced items for homes, business and institutions across the country, engaging many talented young people in designing, making and selling along the way.
In 2016 we started a second enterprise, Lumberjack cafe in Camberwell. This bustling cafe provides us with a location to employ train and mentor young people. Before we started many local young people told us that they felt working in a cafe would enable them to make the first step into employment, this would allow them to get into the swing of working life in an environment that encourages and supports them.
We have found that having employment experience is the single most important factor to gaining future employment. Our charity continues to build on this model of supportive employment to impact the lives of young people and their communities.