Cornwall Works
The shape of things to come
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The Shape of Things to Come

RIO’s innovative ESF Convergence initiative, through Cornwall Works for Social Enterprise is taking a fresh approach to employment programmes, helping out-of-work young people like Jack Latham Byrne carve new careers for themselves…

“I’ve always been able to do stuff with my hands, but no-one seemed to pick up on that in school.” For Jack Latham Byrne, school didn’t work. He struggled with traditional learning and his dyslexia made academic studies difficult. “I didn’t feel like I was given a chance, the way they were trying to teach me wasn’t the way I could learn.” He left school with no qualifications and no career plan, taking a series of short term jobs and surf-travelling before settling on trying out for a carpentry apprenticeship.

Jack was lucky enough to secure a place with a local company, but then the recession struck. Jack’s apprenticeship fell through and so did his prospects, until a youth worker in Newquay handed him a flier that caught his eye. XtraVert, a learning programme for NEET young people run by Real Ideas Organisation (RIO) and funded by ESF through Cornwall Works for Social Enterprise, had Jack’s name written all over it. Using skating as a hook to train young people in carpentry skills, the programme focused on learning through doing; building skate ramps to acquire the skills needed to pursue a career in carpentry. “It just worked for me, simple as,” Jack continues, “I got 100% attendance which I have never got for anything, ever – but it was because I enjoyed it. It was hands on practice, working things out rather than being told.”

Along with all the young people on the XtraVert programme Jack graduated with flying colours and as a result set up a social enterprise carpentry business with two fellow graduates. Growing from the course, the XtraVert Social Enterprise designs, builds and sells skate ramps, bespoke commissions, wooden surfboards and more. As part of the business, Jack has gone on to complete his carpentry NVQ levels 1 and 2 and has taken on responsibility for drumming up new commissions and promoting XtraVert’s services.

“With XtraVert it’s so much more than just carpentry,” says Jack. “I’ve learned business skills too, like networking, costing and branding, I’ve met people I would never had met and am trying things I’d never have tried; it’s really rewarding.”

One such rewarding new thing is running learning programmes in schools with young people, introducing them to woodwork first hand. “It’s great to see kids, naughty kids like I was, really get into something,” he continues, “they relate to us, because we’re not teachers, because we’re like them.”

Jack’s new found status as a role model for young people may have been unexpected, but it is something he has come to really value. “It’s good to see the kids that really need it come away motivated and with an idea for the future,” he concludes. “It proves that learning doesn’t have to be an academic, that there are different ways forward for everyone.”

Through the XtraVert programme’s unique approach to helping NEET young people, Jack has found and shaped his own way forward, with qualifications, business skills and plans for the years ahead. What’s more he’s passing on his experiences to the next generation too.

A real success story.

Find out more about the work Real Ideas Organisation does making change happen through social enterprise – www.realideas.org

Find out more about XtraVert – www.realideas.org/xtravert

Find out more about ESF Convergence www.convergencecornwall.com