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850px suffolk learner award 2019Pictured: Lana Brand, Programme Lead for Skills for Empoyment and Michael Ashfold, a student who attended the first ever Youth Obligation Programme in 2018.

West Suffolk College has scooped the Project of the Year at the Suffolk Adult Learners' Awards 2019, held at University of Suffolk, Waterfront Buildings, in Ipswich. 

The Project of the Year Award was presented to Lana and Michael (one of the students from the first ever programme, who has now found and sustained employment in Mildenhall as a result of his programme in 2018) at the Suffolk Adult Learners Awards ceremony at the University of Suffolk, Waterfront Buildings on the 27th June. 

Youth Obligation is a programme for young adults aged between 18 and 24 who are unemployed. The programme has been written and developed alongside the DWP and is aimed at those who are currently claiming Universal Credit. The objective of the programme is to support the learners through their journey into employment, for some it may be as simple as writing a stand out CV, covering letter or knowing how to fill out an outstanding job application. For others this journey is more about developing their West Suffolk College “character strengths” such as confidence, resilience, ambition, ownership, self-control, curiosity, respect and optimism.  Many want to develop their social skills to help them feel not only ready to work but confident in their own abilities. The learners also have a second chance to gain their Maths and English qualifications while working with specialised tutors who can cater to their individual learning needs and personal barriers. An important part of the programme is to take part in work experience to develop new skills and expertise as well as develop workplace confidence.  The course also enables learners to help out in the wider community, this may be through volunteering projects or giving up their time to support others in the local community. The learners also participate in fundraising, and as a group will decide who they would like to help and how they want to help them, this gives the learners a sense of self-worth and also develops their respect and compassion for others. The learners are young adults who are struggling to gain employment for a multitude of reasons, we help them to set individual goals that they will develop over 16 weeks, 3 days a week while working in a safe group environment.

Due to the incredible positive impact on the students that took part in the very first course in April 2018, we created a video to help promote the benefits of the course to prospective students.

Testimony from a student that took part in the course:

Youth Obligation1

"When I started the programme I was timid, and very unconfident. I was heavily bullied in school and had a negative view on anything that resembled the classroom. Before the programme began I had no social life, which meant my social skills were limited, I spent my time online or playing computer games alone.

"On my first day of Youth Obligation I was too scared to walk down the road in case someone tried to hurt or verbally abuse me, so I asked my brother to drive me there. I was also worrying about the fact that someone who didn’t like me might also be on the programme. Lana reassured me that if I felt in danger or uncomfortable I just had to nod and she would let me leave and find a safe space.

"Since that day I have really grown, I used to worry about what others thought of me but now it no longer concerns me. I now have real friends who I spend time with and talk to outside of the programme and I finally feel like I’m having the school experience that everyone else got to have. I’ve learnt about myself and made lifelong friends.

"Youth Obligation deserves a Festival of Learning award because not only has it given me my confidence it has also given me a pathway to my future. After finishing the programme I expressed my desire to help others to Lana, she offered me the opportunity to work as a Teaching Assistant on the programme, so that I can help those who are just like me. The programme has completely changed me, I went into the environment not wanting to even work with others, now I want to do all I can to help them succeed in life."

How to sign up to Youth Obligation

  • Visit your work coach and ask them for a referral to the Youth Obligation programme at West Suffolk College at one of the following Job Centres: Bury St Edmunds, Sudbury, Havehrill, Newmarket, Mildenhall and Stowmarket.

  • or simply pop into one of our learning centres: Bury St Edmunds, Sudbury, Haverhill, Thetford