Covid – one year on

It’s one year since schools in England closed to the majority of students due to Covid-19.

Overnight we shifted to staff working from home. Our CEO Ashley McCaul, with support from our board, led by our chair Charlie Green, immediately recognised that in unprecedented times, we were a lifeline for many of our young people and their families, and made the decision to keep our programmes running.

Like our young people, we had to draw on resilience  to keep operating while managing staff illness and the difficult personal circumstances many of our team faced at home. We adapted to remote delivery for coaching and innovated to find new ways to host our employability activities.

In the last year we also produced a new five-year strategy and we are developing a new equalities plan which will sit at the heart everything we do. To make sure the voices of young people are heard by government, we joined the Youth Employment Group, set up by Impetus.

As we look ahead we can see the prospect of some normality returning, but for our young people we know the job market will be incredibly challenging and we will continue to build on our work with employers to create more job pathways for young people.

Ashley said: “I’d like to pay tribute to ThinkForward’s staff, our school, employer and funding partners and our young people, who all faced huge challenges due to Covid-19. I’m proud that we continued supporting young people through the pandemic. Our focus now is to ensure every young person on our programmes has the better and brighter future they deserve. Through coaching and employability activities we will be doing all we can to prepare them to gain the confidence, independence and skills they need for their next steps.”

Two new young trustees appointed

Two fantastic young trustees have been appointed to join our board. Their recruitment is part of our commitment to ensure the insights and lived experiences of young people inform decision-making at the highest level of our organisation.

We are delighted that one of young trustees is a former Nottingham student from our programme. Sally Cartwright went to Ellis Guilford School where she worked with coach Daljit. Sally joined ThinkForward in 2016 and instantly embraced the benefits of the coaching relationship and the opportunities the programme provided.

Sally is now 18 and a care assistant in a residential home. In the summer she was one of our Coronavirus Community Heroes, in recognition of her incredible resilience and frontline work during the pandemic. Her ambition is to work in the NHS.

Sally said: ‘By being a young trustee on the ThinkForward board I aspire to bring more opportunity and equality to all young people. ThinkForward helped me by developing my self-assurance, resilience and drive. My mission is to help ThinkForward grow and be accessible to more young people. I feel one of this generations’ biggest challenges is overcoming mental health issues so young people can become who they dream to be.’

Our second young trustee is Dan Easterbrook. Dan is from Dorset and works for the Civil Service. He was inspired to join the board due to his own experiences as a person with Cerebral Palsy Hemiplegia. Dan set up a digital community for people with Cerebral Palsy Hemiplegia, where nearly 400 people can support each other to tackle and share solutions to the barriers, challenges, and problems they face. Dan is also an ambassador for the Young Trustees Movement.

Dan, who is 22, said: ‘I would not be where I am today without coaching and mentorship, which enabled me to overcome the obstacles and labels I have been subject to as a disabled person. I cannot wait to use my experience having overcome those barriers to support, amplify and champion incredible young people as a trustee for ThinkForward.’

Our chair Charlie Green welcomed the two new trustees to the board: ‘Sally and Dan are both incredibly impressive individuals and I am delighted they are joining ThinkForward’s board. Their appointments form part of ThinkForward’s pledge to support young people to develop their voice and influence. As we start to implement a new five-year strategy, they will play a significant role in our governance and they are uniquely placed to support the board to better understand the challenges young people face today.’

 

ThinkForward and Bird & Blend ChariTEA partnership – developing young people’s employabiliTEA

We were delighted to be Bird & Blend’s ChariTEA partner for April to June. We had a lot of fun working with the amazing team  and meeting some of their wonderful customers through a virtual tea break.

Our young people took part in an inspiring and informative online Q&A with Bird & Blend founder, Krisi, to learn more about entrepreneurship. It was a brilliant session for anyone interested in setting up their own business or who just wanted to learn more about what it takes to be successful at work.

Young people on our programme also got involved in Bird & Blend’s PosTEA campaign, writing letters to people feeling isolated during the Covid-19 pandemic. We hope the letters, along with a lovely gift of tea, will give people a bit of a boost during these still difficult times.

Bird & Blend customers raised funds for ThinkForward by buying the Mint Choc Roobios tea, with proceeds donated to our work. The money will go towards our work with young people, supporting them to raise their aspirations, develop their skills for work and life, and achieve a better and brighter future.

We would like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to everyone at Bird & Blend, especially founder Krisi, customer experience manager Georgina and the team at the Islington store in London who nominated us for the partnership.

If you or your company are interested in developing a partnership with ThinkForward, please get in touch with partnerships@thinkforward.org.uk. We would love to hear from you! You find out more about how to get support us here.