Strawberry Field trainees take first steps into work
Young adults with learning disabilities will gain skills and experience to help them onto the career ladder thanks to a flagship scheme developed by The Salvation Army in partnership with The City of Liverpool College and local employers.
Of one million people with learning difficulties in the UK, 93% are unemployed and 31% have no contact with family or friends. Steps to Work is a 12 to 18 month programme designed for people (aged 18 to 25 years), with mild to moderate learning difficulties and who do not reach the threshold for additional support from their local authority to build the skills and knowledge needed for mainstream employment. After completing an eligibility screening process, trainees are accepted onto the programme which is a three-way partnership between The Salvation Army, The City of Liverpool College and local employers.
Opportunities on the scheme are varied with roles working in customer services, retail, garden maintenance, business administration and catering amongst those offered by local employers as well as placements at The Salvation Army’s brand new visitor attraction, Strawberry Field.
The Strawberry Field site treasured by John Lennon as he grew up a stone’s throw away in Woolton, Liverpool is wholly owned by the Church and charity. A new authentic exhibition on the place, the song and John Lennon’s early life around the site made famous by the Beatles song will open to the public for the first time in summer 2019. Once open the redeveloped site will become the training and placement hub for the Steps to Work trainees as well as providing opportunities for trainees to work across a range of on-site facilities including the visitor attraction itself, a café, a shop and landscaped gardens.
Lauren Phipps Steps to Work Programme Manager said: “We believe that everyone should be able to access the right employment support. We are increasingly concerned that many people are disengaged from the support that’s available to them. The Salvation Army is addressing this gap and supporting people not currently being helped by national government programmes back into employment — we’re in a unique position that enables us to take a relational approach and invest more time with job seekers, reaching people who have haven’t been reached by national initiatives.
First announced by The Salvation Army in November 2017, 50 years since the original release of the 1967 classic Beatles song, a choir formed of young people with learning disabilities – all of whom could potentially benefit from the Army’s inspiring plans – gathered at the world-famous Abbey Road studios to create a special version of the iconic song. Two students from the choir are amongst the first eight trainees.
Tina Callaway’s son is one of the first cohort of Steps to Work trainees: “My son Anthony is 19 and is on the Autistic spectrum. Communication is very hard for him. When you have a child with special educational needs all you want for them is for them to fulfil their potential, whatever that may be. To be able to give them those opportunities which will allow them to get where they want in life.
“My son has learnt loads at college which has been wonderful, but he’s not able to transfer those skills into other areas of his life. For example, he only does certain things at college and other things at home.
“So, I know that when he finishes college he won’t be able to get a job because he just won’t have the skills to function in a normal work place.
“What he needs is an extra step, an extra lot of training which helps him to transfer the skills he’s learnt, builds his confidence and gives him support. And that’s what Strawberry Field aims to do.
“I’ve been worrying for a long time about what will happen to him after he finishes college because I know he won’t want to just volunteer at project after project, he’ll want a job. So, when I heard about The Salvation Army’s vision for Strawberry Field I was relieved.
“It felt like, at last, someone was seeing my son as person who has potential and can achieve something. It is just wonderful.”