For a young person to enter a training programme as a NEET and leave motivated, determined, confident and future focused they must have a life changing experience. This experience must not only change their perception of their world but more importantly their perception of themselves.
There are numerous professionals involved in education including teachers, lecturers, trainers and tutors but the most suited discipline dedicated to changing a young person’s perception of themselves is that of a youth worker.
That’s not to say that they are the only people who can do this or that they are all masters of the art but it is the discipline which is most focused on improving a young persons self perception.
Having the skills however is not the same as having a plan. Far too many educators struggle to engage NEETs not because they don’t have the skills, the confidence or the belief in young people but because they don’t have a methodology suited to working with NEETs.
Informal education can be a great support to young people that aren’t engaging in mainstream education, training or are unemployed and may be struggling with issues such as taking drugs, sexuality, gangs, bullying etc but only if the educator utilises an effective methodology.
A skilled educator with an effective methodology provides a quality experience for a young person. So before we explore such a NEET methodology lets us look at a real example of what happens if we try this without a fully considered methodology.
Building the Environment
Step 1: Providing Engaging Activities
This is both the first and most important and most difficult step. If you can’t capture the imagination of your target group they will not turn up. If they don’t turn up you, your programme and your organisation are redundant. Many programmes fail because they focus on creating the programme. You must crack this first stage! You must give it the time, money, staff and resources to ensure a successful turn out.
Whilst these young people are not engaged in employment or education it would be foolish to think that they are interested in society. They are as passionate about things such as sport, films, music, fashion etc as any young person. Many of the big brands effectively market their products to this age group to great effect. So step one is to think of NEETs as your customer and present your programme in a way that sounds interesting, exciting and motivational.
To do this you need to be able to answer these simple questions:
- What do we want to say?
- Who do we want to say it to?
- How are we going to say it?
- What – There is an open day at the sports centre.
- Who – The young people who hang around on the local street corners.
- How – Local council outreach youth workers and current users will approach the young people on the corners and ensure they know about it. They will ask them of their interests and ensure that they are represented. We will create exciting flyers. We will get interviews on local radio. We will ask local rugby and football clubs if a player can attend. We will have staff go to the corners with circulate free raffle tickets on the day. Etc. etc.
Step 2: Create the Right Setting
Now that young people are flocking to your door it is essential that they instantly get one message loud and clear “They are in the right place”. As people who are engaged in society we can easily forget what an obstacle walking into an unfamiliar reception area can be, what it’s like walking up to a strange adult and starting a conversation, how ready you are to turn and walk away (which is what many of your hard won young people will do). Remember this may only be the local youth centre, sports centre or church hall but it is the equivalent to you or I walking into the House of Lords for the first time.
We want to make sure that our young people negotiate this barrier comfortably
So here are some suggestions:
- Make sure there are plenty of signs pointing the way to your event.
- Have young people as a welcoming party at the door and have one of them walk the participants through to the room.
- Don’t have the participants sign in. They may not like writing and that would start with a negative. Your staff can write their name down.
- Keep the paper work to an absolute minimum.
- Have a nice waiting area for those who arrive early. Some biscuits, drinks, picture quiz’s.
Be creative but make sure they feel welcome and relaxed. Treat each one of them like a VIP – to your organisation they are!
Step 3: Building Relationships
How would you react if a stranger knocked on your door and asked you about your relationship to your parents and your self-esteem? What if a close friend asked you the same questions?
It’s your job to ask insightful questions but they must first build the type of relationship which permits such enquires from the perspective of the young person.
The worker / young person relationship needs time to develop. It needs to build trust, establish boundaries and ensure respect. Too many policy makers don’t recognise the importance of giving this part of the process the time it requires.
The following training will provide trainers with the initial skills needed to effectively engage with NEETs and also offers 2 sample training modules that have been effective within the UK in motivating NEET young people back into training and employment.