New trustees appointed

We’re delighted to have four new trustees on board to support ThinkForward as we start implementing our new five-year strategy.

Asi Panditharatna is the Divisional Director for Employment Services at the Forward Trust and has spent the majority of his career working in operational, business development and leadership roles in employability, vocational training, apprenticeships, regeneration and economic development. Asi spent ten years working at Catch22 and took them to their first ever Ofsted Grade Good for apprenticeships and vocational training. Asi is a school governor and was a member of the Mayor of London’s inaugural Skills for Londoner’s Task Force. Asi’s family is Sri Lankan in origin and continues to support children’s, young people’s and reconciliation charities in the country.

Kathryn Jack works as an Engagement Manager at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. Kathryn is a ‘first generation’ university student and is now on her third apprenticeship since leaving school ten years ago – to qualify as a chartered manager in 2021/22. She is a passionate advocate for young people finding their voice. Kathryn has a lived experience of a more blended pathway into the labour market. She is also an experienced mentor on various SEND projects and is enthusiastic about encouraging socio-economic growth.

Keith MacDonald is a partner with EY, where he looks after the work they do in the Wealth Management sector, including chairing an industry Philanthropy Forum. He has supported the EY Foundation since its set up, is a member of NPC’s Development Committee, and is a member of Hope & Home for Children’s Public Sector Advisory Committee.

Robert Craig is the COO at the Skills Builder Partnership, Robert firmly believes in the potential of skills development to deliver social outcomes. Benefiting from accounting and law qualifications, he is an experienced FRAC chair. Robert also brings knowledge of having developed and managed Social Impact Bonds, with a background in strategy, consulting and impact investment.

Our chair, Charlie Green said: ‘I’m delighted to welcome four new trustees to ThinkForward’s board. As we embark on a new five-year strategy it’s an exciting and important time to join. They bring a broad range of experiences, skills and insights that will support the organisation to deliver on our new objectives and along with my fellow trustees, I’m looking forward to working with them.’

We will shortly be recruiting two young trustees. This is one way we can ensure the voices and needs of young people are heard, and that the decisions made by the board are informed by a broad range of outlooks and experiences.

Findings from our Covid-19 survey

As our young people head back to school and college or embark on the next stage of their journey, it’s a good time to reflect on the impact of Covid-19 on their well-being and what we need to do to address the various impacts.

More than half of our young people are worried about their future and a third say their mental health got worse as a result of the Covid-19 and the lockdown.

These are just two of the findings from a survey of 150 young people on our programme. We wanted to discover how the pandemic had affected them, and also use the findings to help us ensure we’re providing the best ongoing support.

London Year 12 student Fabiha said: ‘Lockdown took a toll on my well-being. I didn’t go out much, just for walks, with school being the main thing I missed – the learning, my friends and my teachers.

‘Coach’s calls are the highlights of my week, I bottle up all the things I want to talk to him about and when we speak it feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. When I feel a bit low, my coach has helped me to pick myself up again.’

A study by the National Foundation for Educational Research found that the average pupil lost three months of learning during lockdown, but that more than half of pupils at schools in the most deprived areas lost four months or more.

Our survey results suggest some reasons why some students were more adversely affected. It showed that many of our young people didn’t have access to technology or study space during their time out of school and college. For example, 36% of respondents would have liked a quiet area to learn and 31% had issues with internet access/data.

Looking ahead, there is recognition that it could be harder to get a job. Connor, a student in Kent who has just started Year 12, said: ‘I do worry more about my future now. I watch the news and see that a lot of businesses are facing uncertainty, there will be fewer jobs and no-one knows how long Britain will take to recover. I know that young people looking for jobs will be badly affected by the economic impact of Covid-19 but because I’m with ThinkForward and work with my coach I’m confident that I’m better prepared than many of them.’

We were delighted that young people felt they had been well-supported by their coach during lockdown, scoring us four out of five. In addition, 35% of young people said their coach was their main support provider and 25% said being connected with their coach helped them maintain their mental well-being.

After a long absence from their education and disruption in their lives, we know that many of our young people might need supported in different ways. As we start the autumn term, Ashley McCaul, ThinkForward’s CEO said: ‘We’ve used the findings from our survey to inform how we develop our programme to make sure our coaches are meeting new needs and supporting young people back to school and college. I’m sure times will still be challenging, but I’m confident we can all adapt and positively embrace the start of the new term.’

Programme end date to change for ThinkForward’s 2020 graduates

We’ve been thinking hard about the implications of Covid-19 on the young people on our programme, particularly those due to leave this summer.

In the light of the challenges this group have faced since March, the stress to the labour market as a result of the economic fall out of the lockdown and the research that’s been done into what groups will be worst hit, we anticipate that many of these young people will need support beyond their expected graduation date of July.

As a result, we’ve decided this year to extend the end of the programme until the October half term. It means our coaches and business partnership managers will be able to work with young people over the summer months as they seek to progress onto their next step.

Our director of programmes Matt Archer said: ‘In a normal year, most of our young people successfully graduate from the programme into work, training or further study, with the small numbers who don’t receiving ongoing job-seeking support, but we’re concerned that in 2020 things could be very different.

‘By extending their time on the programme we can continue to work closely with our young people to provide advice and guidance on job hunting, and ensure they have the resilience and drive needed to secure employment in these testing times.’

We are also be reviewing all the announcements made in the Chancellor’s mini budget to ensure our young people can take advantage of relevant new opportunities aimed at minimising the economic shock of Covid-19 on under-25s.

We’ll be recruiting our next intake of ThinkForward young people before the summer term ends and aim to start working with them after the October holiday.