Pilot scheme gets young people into work

United Utilities' Business Services Director Sally Cabrini with Zoe Green
United Utilities' Business Services Director Sally Cabrini with Zoe Green

A pilot scheme to get 1,000 North West teenagers into work – the first of its kind led by a UK utility company – has had its first successes.

Seven young people who were not in education, employment or training (known as NEETs) have completed their training and are now being fast-tracked into full-time work. They will be fixing water pipes, electricity cables or working on huge gas projects.

One of them is 17-year-old Zoe Green, who found the school and college environments difficult. She struggled to get the five GCSEs with grades A*-C she needed for an apprenticeship, but now is working for Warrington-based water supplier United Utilities, thanks to the NEETs scheme.

Zoe said: “Warrington Youth Club highlighted the opportunity with UU and I jumped at the chance.

“I am most excited about having a job and getting some independence. What I would say to other employers about thinking of running a course is to take the opportunity! Giving people the opportunity to get experience really helps them to get a job.

“It offered me an experience I could take and learn a lot from. I’m really pleased I took it as I’ve learnt a lot about myself and other people’s strengths and weaknesses.”

UU volunteered to set up and lead the initiative as it is setting the pace among utility providers in getting the young unemployed into work. The UK’s largest listed water utility group is leading eight major utilities, including Scottish Power, Amey, E.ON UK and Siemens, on five pilot projects in Lancashire, Cheshire, Cumbria, Liverpool and Manchester.

Prime Minister David Cameron unveiled the NEETs scheme during a visit to UU in July. It targets the North West’s most deprived areas and provides apprenticeships, careers advice, training support and work placements. The region has the third largest number of NEETs in the UK and 16.3% of the nation’s 136,000 NEETs. The scheme’s £115m. budget comprises £33m. from the Government and £82m. from employers.

Sally Cabrini Business Services Director for UU, said: “We proposed a pilot as an experiment but it’s been fantastically successful and it’s all down to the participants. I’m thrilled and delighted we have this scheme up and running and I’m extremely proud of all those who have graduated. I’m looking forward to hearing how they progress in the future.

“We’ve got high hopes for the other young people waiting to hear back from job applications and interviews. We wish them all the best.”