Learning for life
Shoreditch Trust delivers Blue Marble Training (BMT) which provides chef training and learning, pastoral support and mentoring to support vulnerable, 16 to 25 year olds who are not working, studying or training and who are transitioning into independent living.
Key to providing a meaningful setting for the learning is Waterhouse Restaurant, established as an enterprise by Shoreditch Trust, which is open to the public and provides trainees with real industry experience.
BMT offers emotional and practical support through a person-centred support approach and one to one coaching and mentoring designed around each individual. It provides support that seeks to help young people experiencing crisis, to not only cope more effectively but also begin to develop problem-solving, decision-making and planning capacities to help manage future adversities and provide sustainable improvements to their wellbeing. It is designed to support vulnerable young people as they are becoming adults and are expected to be independent and manage on their own. A Consultant Social Worker from Leaving Care Service has told us:
“While I appreciate that the fundamental goal for the programme is to give young adults the skills and training necessary to have a career in the food and hospitality industry, I believe that the most invaluable support they are offering young people is through personal development. Many of the young adults I support have been out of any kind of education or training for years, have a history of mental health difficulties, have an extremely limited support network, have issues with housing and benefits, etc. Blue Marble meets these individuals where they are and is committed to building them up from there.”
We believe that the underlying issues holding young people back from engaging or even feeling part of an employment system need to be addressed alongside any practice-based learning. Young people arrive on the BMT programme often feeling like they have little to contribute, that the issues they are facing will never go away and that they have little control over their own lives. Many of them have become disengaged from services, may face challenges in their neighbourhoods at risk of harm from other young people, have mental health issues or a combination of all. Lack of access to basic services means that employment can seem unattainable.
We have attempted to create a secure environment that empowers young people to develop the attributes necessary for working in a complex environment and to support them to identify and build new networks and make positive changes in their lives. It’s about more than just cooking; the programme also focuses on attributes that are so important in manging and contributing to a successful personal and professional life: thinking creatively, emotional development, establishing values, communication and collaboration, innovation, teamwork and leadership.
In addition to the kitchen based learning, the programme offers one to one leadership coaching, bespoke physical fitness training; one to one counselling sessions offered through the Trust’s mental health team and healthy eating sessions through the Trust’s Food for Life programme.
But the support that the programme provides can’t and doesn’t stop when the young people moves on to paid employment or advanced training. Learning about the world of work is complex and often subtle processes lead to false starts, dashed hopes and unexpected successes. To assist us understand these processes researchers from the Centre for Social Justice and Change, School of Social Sciences, University of East London are collecting information using several different methods, including: conducting observations of sessions, in-depth interviews with young people and staff, as well information from anonymous self-completion questionnaires.
This is why we continue to mentor our BMT alumni in the first few months of their careers or as long as they feel they need our input and support, supporting them to manage personal development and navigating the work place as they maintain sustained employment. We will help them to make the transition as they adapt to a new setting, different routines and an unfamiliar setting, giving them the opportunity to talk about mistakes or problems that they may have encountered with the people they know and trust. What is very encouraging is that our alumni come back to see us; they actively maintain contact with us, informing us of their successes and even, on occasion, providing work opportunities for current trainees.
The complexities we see and the level of support we must provide throughout a young person’s journey on the programme and into the first six months of work has only increased in scope and depth over the last five years. Our approach requires a lot of resource, a skilled team and constant review that can be expensive in the short term. However, we firmly believe that it generates not only long term gains to society but is indispensable in changing the lives of young people. It is vital that commissioning and funding sources recognise this so that our sector can support young people beyond the learning programme and into their first jobs, and that this approach is completely integrated into initiatives that aim to get young people into employment and successful careers.
The Shoreditch Trust