Norpro Training (Plymouth, UK)
My second visit was to a private training provider who provided training for young people in the automotive engineering area. A subsidiary site also offered an equivalent course in marine engineering whereby students would work on inboard engines and the structures and mechanisms of a vessel.
The automotive programme had initially been set up in a socially deprived area of Plymouth not as a training provider but as a means of providing something worthwhile for young people. The scene was described as a series of abandoned garages where young people would steal cars, vandalise the garages and strip or destroy the stolen vehicles. As a community, the decision was made to turn this negative into a positive by providing a controlled outlet for a group of young people who had fallen through the cracks!
Initially, students were drawn from the local community. Schools and the local education authority saw the potential for the development of the programme and after a few years, the community group transferred to a private training provider. As a result, staff were employed and the opportunity to draw upon education funding became a reality. The provider is now operated by a trust to maintain direction and develop a strategy. The provider reports to a board four times a year.
Students typically started at age 14 or 15 and maybe with the programme for up to three years. In exceptional circumstances, students as young as 13 may be enrolled in the second half of their Year 9.
This venture relied upon ‘bums on seats’ for its funding but also worked closely with the host school. Typically, a young person was referred to as they were either removed from a school (expulsion or exclusion) or were at a significant risk whereby the next step would be permanently removed from school. Students were then in a part-time study programme usually for 2-3 days per week and two days at school.
When students were initially accepted into the programme the tutor made contact with the family and highlighted the expectations for the young person. It was expected that the family would support the student in meeting these expectations. The aim was to be clear that this was a partnership and a great opportunity. I wonder if some families and students would see this as their one last chance!?
Whilst at school there was an expectation that students would work towards ‘Functional Maths and Functional English’. (The New Zealand equivalent would be an NCEA L1 English and Maths programme achieved through Unit Standards and which had some relevance to employment)
There was no health or physical recreation/ exercise component in the course, but the provider noted that this would be the responsibility of the school. It was noted that they did take a strong interest in the health and safety component and the impairment of drugs and alcohol. A situation was described where a student was under the influence of cannabis and was withdrawn from the workplace and then how this situation was managed. The formal discipline of this incident was managed by the host school whilst a more informal (yet direct) approach was managed by the provider. They were also very clear that drug use was a reason to decline entry on the basis of a risk to health and safety.
During the student’s placement on the programme, they did work towards national qualifications. Typically, a student would spend two years in the programme and exit with L2-3 qualifications which would set the student upon a path to employment and a subsequent apprenticeship, typically with an employer.
However, not all students followed the paths that were offered. During my visit, the provider heard from a student that he would not be returning for the new school year but was going to be accepting a place in a training programme related to the catering and hospitality industry. It was obvious that the environment the student had worked in had provided the ‘self-discipline’ and ‘real life experience’ necessary for him to be able to prove that he was ‘worth the risk’ for his next training provider. This was viewed as a good outcome for the student and also highlighted the transference of skills beyond the initial industry training.
With the success of the programme and with it now drawing from across the city the provider was honest and stated that they could afford to be selective about who they accepted. This would suggest that some of the ‘high risk’ students who would follow the path of expulsion/ exclusion and who do not ‘fit’ in the formal high school situation may be declined entry based upon the success that they have created. Similarly, those that are ‘high demand’ students may be turned away. The provider was now, as a result, able to set higher standards of achievement for course participants.
The manager spoke frankly about the work environment. This was not a school and so some of the conversations were frank! This was very much designed to prepare young people for the workplace. There was also an expectation that students were aware very early on that there was a high degree of supervision and monitoring. As a new trainee starting the programme their first activity was to identify and locate the safety equipment (eg first aid kits, fire extinguishers and also CCTV cameras) The aim was to highlight that they were being carefully watched and monitored!
The work was aimed to be hands-on and practical where ever possible. There were two classrooms available and these were scheduled for students to complete ‘book work’. The NZ equivalent would be Unit Standard workbooks. This ‘classroom’ environment was sparse and very functional.
Talking with the staff there was a high degree of enthusiasm for the work and the social benefit. The trainers were a combination of time served garage mechanics and younger men who enjoyed the challenge and instructional work. During the visit, there were professional discussions regarding the moderation of students work and also discussions regarding the welfare progress of individual students.
It was obvious that the tutors knew their students well and could identify their strengths and abilities. Although there was no formal pastoral care in terms of the young person background the tutors did know about the young people they were working with and they obviously cared for them.
All the staff talked with pride about the students who would return to the programme, sometimes years after leaving and talk about their success and where they were working. This appeared to be an indication of the young person finding a place of belonging where positive relationships had been able to grow and flourish.
"Thanks for best year and half at college" Alex Kennedy - former student.
"Thanks for two years at the Garage Project. Out of all the stuff I learnt in the sixth form mechanics, you made it fun. I learned everything I had to know. I think you did a great job, you all changed the way I thought about learning, and I thought school wasnt going to work in the first few weeks, but it all changed. I stayed at school so I could go the Garage Project every week. I dont think I ever told you but I have been around jobs and other courses and the Garage Project is still top in my book. Thankyou". Daniel Webber - former student.
"Hi, would like to say a big thankyou to Brian and his team for a fantastic two weeks of carpentry". Anthony Lee - former student - carpentry course.
"I have just finished the carpentry course, and enjoyed every minute of it. Massive thank you for the opportunity". Danno Matthew Key - former student - carpentry course.
"Had my car serviced yesterday, one very happy customer! I highly recomend this facility". Jackie Gilchrist - customer.
Case Study: Targeted Youth Support Worker
There was this one young person who was quite heavily involved in anti-social behavour and at severe risk of getting an Anti Social Behaviour Order. He'd been identified as a risk for an application to be made on one. He was at school but excluded from main-stream education, so he was in the pupil referral unit on a part-time timetable.
He was doing two and a half hours education a day, from about 0930 until 1200 which left him with the rest of the day and weekends and holidays where he had literally nothing to do, which again meant he went and got into trouble.
He's fourteen years old and we applied to Norpro Training and got him onto one of the courses running in the evening, and he attended that and that then stretched into the school holidays as well. It was only two evenings per week, but it really meant that he met other people and became involved in the local youth services, so he was then occupied two or three evenings a week.
It made such a big difference and he's really dropped off the radar in terms of his behaviour and he's made real big improvements.
Norpro Training Ltd
30 Ham Drive
Tel: 01752 559426
Norpro Training Ltd
Hours for reception:
Monday - Friday
08.30 - 16.30