Scheme launched by North East businesses is getting youngsters into work

NE1's Space 2 scheme is driving down the number of NEETs in the North East and getting people into employment, training or employment

Jake Bugg launching the NE1 Space 2 scheme
Jake Bugg launching the NE1 Space 2 scheme

For those of us who curse the chime of our alarm clock in the morning, it’s sometimes easy to forget what the alternative is.

For thousands of people without a job in the North East, having nothing to wake up for is a sad reality.

The impact of unemployment is acutely felt in young people, especially those classed by the government as NEET – Not in Education, Employment or Training.

But business leaders in the region, led by NE1, launched a scheme to get as many young people off the NEET list as possible.

The project, called Space 2, has been a resounding success, getting nearly 15 per cent of the North East’s struggling youngsters into work, training or education.

One youngster who has benefited from the scheme is 17-year-old Daniel Brannan.

After being booted out of school at the age of 14, he admits he thought a life on the dole beckoned.

However, with the help of NE1’s Space 2, Daniel has now completed college and has the qualifications necessary to grab an apprenticeship.

He said: “I left school in year nine, aged 14. I was permanently excluded, then did construction for the rest of my school years.

“I failed all the exams.

“I then had a lost year from when I was 16 to 17. I would get out up out of bed at 4pm, I’d just spend my entire day in bed doing nothing. My mum and dad used to be really angry with me. My dad would always ask me what I was doing with my life.

“I just used to tell him I’d be on the dole.”

Jake Bugg at the NE1 Space 2 launch
Jake Bugg at the NE1 Space 2 launch

It was at this point that Daniel was introduced to Space 2 by a friend who also used the scheme.

He said: “Through a friend I heard about NE1’s project and he took me along with him one day. I told them about getting kicked out of school they introduced me to work shops and then I did two years of college.

“I have now applied to about 20 apprenticeships and I’m confident of getting a response back soon.

“I studied maths and English at college. There’s a massive difference in me now. My mum is asking me to stay in the house, whereas before she couldn’t get me out of bed.

“The project is special, it doesn’t just help to get you a job, it changes you as a person.

“It gets you involved with so many different people, different religions and races. It makes you realise that people are all the same.”

Daniel credits the scheme with turning his life around and transforming him as a person.

He said: “From being kicked out of school and lying in bed all day, it has been like ‘wow, things can change so quickly’. I would say it is amazing, the best experience of my life.

“I went to college and loved it, I would look forward to getting out of bed in the morning.

“My confidence has been boosted and I can now handle going to job interviews. It has changed me from being lazy to motivated, I have more friends and I am more sociable.

“I have got my life back on track.”

He is far from the only one who has benefited from the scheme; between May and December of last year, Space 2 helped 238 young people into work, education or training.

That equates to around 15% of the NEETs in the North East.

One of those is James Chivers, of Longbenton.

The 24-year-old started volunteering at Space 2 during a six month period of unemployment, and now he works in a management position.

He said: “Before I came to NE1 I was working at a hotel in France. I went to the French Alps for three months.

“It was a really good experience but the pay was terrible, that’s why I left. I was being paid about 60p an hour.

“I came back to Newcastle in September and volunteered at Space 2 and did a placement in the Job Centre. I got a job in February 2014. Since then I have been working.

“It is horrible not working, I am one of those people who have to be always doing something. There are only so many episodes of Jeremy Kyle you can watch!

“I left school with eight GCSEs but none more than a C. I then went to college to do media, that’s when I started volunteering because it was a great way to get experience in the media. After being at college I went to university in Chester, where I studied TV and Radio Production. I didn’t graduate, after having to do my first year twice I decided the academic route wasn’t for me.”

James then went through a transient period, trying his hand at anything and everything but not finding anything concrete.

He moved to London for six months and did some volunteering at the Olympics.

Jamal Edwards at the opening of NE1's Space 2
Jamal Edwards at the opening of NE1's Space 2

After applying for up to 70 jobs a week, James finally got a break and he credits Space 2 with helping him.

He said: “Space 2 helped me get into work. They tweaked my CV and went through all my work experience. After six months of being unemployed my confidence was shot.

“No one wants someone who has been out of work for that long. I slowly built up my confidence. I applied for another job, with the help of Space 2.

“If I hadn’t of gone to them, I would have gone mad.”

The chief executive of NE1, Sean Bullick, explains how Space 2 came about.

He said: “The project has been running for more than two years, it was set up as Newcastle’s businesses’ response to the problem of youth unemployment. It is a national problem but it is acutely felt in the North East.

“Business was keen to do what they could to make sure it was tackled in a proper way for two reasons; obviously, it is bad for the local and regional economy to have young people unemployed and then the issue that young people never thought the city centre was for them.

“It was not welcoming for them. I was keen to show them we wanted them here and involved in the long term. We got together with a range of businesses and the YMCA and set up a facility in Newgate Street.

“The aim was very clear: give them somewhere they would enjoy going, a recreational facility not just a youth club of old with broken equipment.

“The other side of it was to get them into employment training or apprenticeships. It took a network of businesses to do it. The young people were all keen to climb the ladder, they’re all talented people.”

As well as delivering results, Sean argues the scheme is a lot more cost effective than other, similar drives aimed at getting young people into work.

Despite the success of Space 2, the chief executive admits there is still hard work ahead.

He said: “The cost of each post is about £300. Some government schemes can cost up to £14,000 for each post. We’re not only bringing young people into work but we’re doing it in a cost effective way.”

“From our perspective there is more to do, it’s not something that will be completed over night but we are very much on the path towards achieving our aims.”

Maxine Brown is a senior youth worker at YMCA, which works closely alongside businesses to deliver the service.

The 48-year-old has been working with young people for 15 years, but her work with Space 2 has rejuvenated her.

She said: “I am very, very, very lucky to be doing a job I love. Not many people can say that. I jump out of bed in the morning. I just love coming in and seeing everyone. It is amazing to see them get on in life. So exciting from our end.

“When one leaves us for the next step, it is time for the next one to come in. But the young people we help always stay in touch, we create a special bond between us. We are lucky with that. It is a lovely feeling. I feel like I am making a difference, definitely.”


David Whetstone
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Graeme Whitfield
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