Discovery College, YMCA Plymouth

Celebrating its 10th year, Discovery College has established itself as a successful and innovative post-16 College that has made a significant difference to the lives of over 1,200 young people in Plymouth. Growing from a small project of two courses, the College now delivers over seven vocational training courses and three employability programmes for 16-19s, each year. Additionally, the college supports over 50 local family’s a-week through a range of services delivered by its students.

The unique learning environment allows young people to have their voices heard, be inspired about their future and feel engaged with their community. This caring and supportive space particularly helps students who are disengaged from mainstream education or from disadvantaged backgrounds. Courses are delivered not only equip young people with essential qualifications, but also give them the life-skills they need to fulfil their potential and thrive in society.

This year, Discovery College has reached more young people than ever, and made its biggest impact on young lives. Students achieved their best ever exam results, launched a community orchard and introduced a new Travel & Tourism course. Equally, students have got involved with and made an impact on their community, by leading and supporting services at YMCA Plymouth.
Examples this year include:

  • Employability students volunteering and fundraising for various community projects
  • Soft Play service ran by Childcare students, impacting 30+ families a week.
  • Community orchard designed, built and maintained by Business students for local people, and groups to use.
  • Sports clubs and disability activities run by Sport and Public Services students benefiting 850+ people annually.
  • Health & Social Care students delivered a Memory Cafe to support 25+ people affected by dementia and are trained to give mental health counselling to their peers.
  • Travel & Tourism students working to organise trips for local deprived families.

Put the spark back into your future – YMCA DownsLink Group

Our project is designed to enable vulnerable young residents with significant trauma histories, incomplete and negative education experiences, and a lack of confidence and belief in their own abilities to access opportunity without pressure.

The core aspects of the course are Life Skills and Employability, but what makes our project different is that it is developed with the young people themselves, considering their own unique learning styles, interests and pace. This is a holistic model which ensures young people have multiple levels of support through their journey, and contextualises the learning, supporting them to choose units they want to learn, giving it relevance and value. The learning is done at the young person’s own pace, which has increased through the duration, and is different for everyone.

Our model is not target driven so has no achievement and attendance demands. Instead, it builds trust and encourages choice. Our approach yields powerful results and has reintroduced ambition and belief to previously disengaged young people.

The aim of the project was to reintroduce young people into a learning environment, encourage them to see a positive future, and begin to reintegrate into their communities.

The outcomes surpassed that: Key achievements of 15 young people who started are:

  • 13 completed sector and life specific non-regulated learning units, which have really focused them towards a life plan.
  • 9 completed regulated learning, one receiving a Level 1 Award, two receiving a Level 1 Extended Certificate, six receiving a Level 1 Diploma, one receiving Level 2 Maths, and one receiving Level 2 English.
  • Significantly, three young people have gone into employment, three are actively looking for work, one is attending college, five are enrolling into college, four have volunteered, and five have moved on to more independent living. All have made amazing personal progress and are accessing and accepting support.

Step Up, North Staffordshire

Through the Bertarelli Foundation support, YMCA North Staffordshire has significantly increased its engagement and partnership working with Staffordshire University. The project works on a number of initiatives to break down barriers to higher education and over the past 12 months, we have seen six young people achieve the Stepping Up course as well as two members of our staff team. Of those, three have now embarked on a full degree programme and the others are using their qualification, have gained employment.

The partnership is about doing lots of work to break down barriers to learning and initiatives to support this include:

  • Hosting our annual prom at the Student Union so that young people accommodated with us start to see the University as a place where they belong
  • Worked with the university so that young people from both the YMCA and the University took part in the Srebrenica delegation
  • The university offers experiences to YMCA young people including being VIP’s at their end of year drama celebration / using the music studios
  • Working with the University to offer activities to young people aged 10 – 15 from our community youth work initiative – including an exotic zoo keeper experience
  • Using the University refectory as a space to chat and engage
  • The University sponsors a space on campus where they also release a member of staff to come and spend time with Young people living at YMCA North Staffordshire

We feel that Stepping Up is a great initiative and really allows young people the space and input to break down barriers and re-engage with learning

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