Earlier this week, Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram announced eight new education, training, and employment youth hubs across the city region. Birkenhead’s Merseyside Community Training (MCT) is one of the existing organisations with a strong track record of supporting young people where the new youth hubs will be. birkenhead.news went along to find out more.
During our visit, there was a range of activities happening from mentoring for young entrepreneurs to forklift truck training. Oliver Sumner, Chief Executive at MCT, told us, “We officially launched MCT in October of last year and with regards to the new youth hub, we’re funded by the DWP through the Combined Authority and Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram’s initiative.
“To date, we’ve helped 210 young people, of which 84 have gone on to positive destinations, such as further education, training or employment. That’s massive!”, he said. “Young people are amongst the hardest hit by COVID, so anything we can do in bridging the gap and raise that awareness with local employers is what we really believe in.”
Sandra Kirkham, Founder of MCT and of Wirral Employment Hub, and The Young Entrepreneurs’ Academy said, “We’re never, ever going to successfully engage with you people unless they trust us. The concept is that the young people will come through the door and engage with us and through that, they’ll develop trust in us. Through that trust, we’ll move forward and fulfil their ambitions.”
The young people who come through the doors could have mental health issues, money problems, have criminal convictions, or simply lack direction. “We strip all of those barriers back.” Sandra said. “We certainly don’t use their history in a punitive way. No matter what you’ve done, we will sit with you and we’ll make sure you leave feeling better than when you came.”
Chantelle-Louise McDermott from Hoylake is one of the young people who use MCT’s facilities and mentors. She told us, “I was on Universal Credit and I spoke to my job coach saying that I wanted to be self-employed and she was wonderful enough to help me find the lovely people at MCT.”
“I attended a Zoom meeting as a little introduction and came in to meet the team two weeks later.”, she said. “That was last August and I haven’t looked back since.” Chantelle’s field is in the arts. She does special effects makeup, including body painting and she also produces artworks. “I do portraits, custom pieces, and little crafty pieces of art.”, she said, proudly.
We asked Chantelle if she would have been able to set up in business without the help of MCT. “No!”, was her emphatic reply. “I suffer from anxiety and I needed moral support for things like writing a business plan. MCT have really helped me get my thoughts in order and given me opportunities like helping me get an exhibition at Mersey Arts Zone.”
Chantelle certainly has a life plan laid out ahead of her and intends to put back into the community and help out at MCT. “I’m currently setting up an arts therapy lesson that will be on a weekly basis for both adults and young people. That will be based at Mersey Arts Zone in Vale Park, New Brighton, and hopefully, I’ll branch that out for people with anxiety, depression, and people who just want to wind down.”
Sandra Kirkham said, “When we start the next cohort, we want Chantelle on board.” Chantelle is a confident and vivacious young woman who acknowledges the benefits of the support she has received from MCT – it is nice to see that she will now use her skills to help out at MCT and the wider community.
Often, when asked, the young people don’t know what they want to do career-wise. Oliver continued, “We advise them on things like how to create a CV and interview preparation. We bring in employers from various sectors and it’s a ‘lightbulb’ moment – ‘Oh, I like the sound of that!'” The employers come from a broad range of business sectors to talk about employment opportunities in construction, catering and hospitality, warehouse logistics – the list goes on.
MCT’s social mission is simple: “To create employment opportunities and business start-up support for environmentally conscious local people facing disadvantage.” On our visit, we saw that this goal is achieved through the training and mentoring by a dedicated and driven staff.
The future for young people who attend MCT is all the brighter for it.
Image: (L-R) Sandra Kirkham, Founder of MCT, Chantelle-Louise McDermott, Young Entrepreneur, and Oliver Sumner, Chief Executive at MCT Credit: www.fotopiaimages.com