‘Pedagogy.’ It sounds like a solution to a tricky crossword problem.
In Blackpool it’s part of the solution to a tricky community problem – how to get the most marginalised and challenging young people into work.
Effective Pedagogy Solutions (EPS) is a not-for-profit organisation employing and empoweringin young people to take on jobs for publicly funded organisations.
EPS offers apprenticeships and support, both practical and personal, to young people who are typically ‘NEETs’ (not in education, employment or training) or who have struggled to hold down other jobs due to chaotic home lives.
The organisation, based out of Mereside Community Centre on Bowness Avenue, is contracted by Blackpool Coastal Housing (BCH) - Blackpool Council’s arms length social housing provider – to undertake its house clearance work, employing young people who are BCH’s tenants to do the work.
Director Jed Sullivan said: “Prior to us being on the scene, there were private companies commissioned to go in to properties owned by housing associations to cut the grass, empty the houses and clean the houses.
“And what they got was short grass, cleared houses and clean houses.
“What they get from us is so much more.”
The 12 youngsters are employed under a ‘social contract’, undertaking more than just the work they are paid to do, by contributing to the local youth club (also run by EPS at Mereside Community Centre, working with hundreds of children each week) and taking time to visit elderly or vulnerable residents to help with chores.
All are paid above the national apprenticeship rate and have been introduced to credit unions.
Over the course of 12 months the young people complete formal apprenticeships in environmental services, accredited by Myerscough College.
Mr Sullivan added: “With 12 months’ work experience under their belts they’re at the top of any future employer’s list - they’re motivated, experienced, qualified and raring to go.”
Maggie Cornall, director of operations for BCH, said: “This is much more than just the workers clearing houses. The jobs are giving these young people structure.
“This model, in the face of budget cuts, is a way for social housing providers to continue to support people without spending more.”
John Donnellon, chief executive of BCH, said: “This is money we’d normally spend with private contractors. We get the same number of houses cleared but we’ve got local people employed to do that so those wages are going back in to the local economy.”
EPS recently won the National Association of Arms Length Management Organisations award for tackling worklessness and supporting social enterprise.
Police have also praised the scheme for leading to a drop in crime in the area.
PC Richard McKenna, community beat manager for Mereside and Marton, said his teams saw an immediate reduction in anti-social behaviour on the housing estate when young people were employed.
He said: “There are rarely issues of anti-social behaviour (ASB) on the estate now.
“You’re never going to eliminate everything but there’s been a dramatic decrease in ASB problems because standards are set here at EPS and the youth club.
“It’s good to see these young people doing something positive is good for the whole community.”
And Lancashire’s police and crime commissioner, Clive Grunshaw, has also heaped praise on the scheme.
“This is a great initiative,” he said. “It takes them away from negative behaviours and clearly it’s cut down on ASB in the area.
“It’s win, win - it benefits both the young people and the community.
“They’re becoming role models for others.”
For the first time, these young people have pride in themselves and are able to look forward to their futures.
Paul Simms, 18, admits to having been troublesome for most of his teenage years.
Now he feels is contributing to his community, rather than blighting it, after four months of working with EPS.
He said: “It’s given me a job and money but also a better life.
“I’m not getting into trouble anymore and I’m not taking drugs
“Children on the estate used to see me causing trouble but now they see me working and doing something with my life.”
Workmate Paige Taylor, 20, said she already felt more optimistic about her future after one month working for EPS, having struggled in previous jobs.
She said: “It’s made my life a whole lot better.
“I can budget now and not worry about paying my bills and I see now that working can be a nice thing - working here has helped me to start again.”
Mr Sullivan added: “The scheme has made an immediate difference to every one of our participants; some by giving them financial freedom, others by giving them a chance to succeed.
“Then there’s the benefits the scheme has to communities, as well as the social housing provider.
“It’s turning those young people who were marginalised into active citizens who pay their taxes, contribute to community projects and have control over their own futures, rather than reliance on others.”