A TRANSFORMATIVE social mobility charity celebrating its 10th anniversary will support and educate even more young people across north east Wales in 2024.
WeMindTheGap has received additional funding from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to extend its WeDiscover, WeGrow and WeBelong provision from January onwards.
The programmes are backed by Wrexham and Flintshire councils, and supported by Coleg Cambria.
WeDiscover is a virtual programme, for participants aged 16 to 25 years, providing them with the opportunity to discover more about themselves and the world beyond their front door through a combination of interactive group activities, dedicated one-to-one mentoring and the chance to meet inspirational guest speakers.
WeGrow is a 12-month face to face programme for people aged 18-25 years which offers six months of work experience alongside life coaching and the opportunity to gain qualifications including Maths, Digital Literacy, Communications and English.
WeBelong is for graduates of WeDiscover and WeGrow, where individuals can turn to the WeBelong team as much or as little as they want – at any point in their lives or careers for help, advice and support with areas including relationships, careers, education, housing, parenting, and mental health concerns.
Led by WeMindTheGap, employability and confidence-building sessions for participants – or ‘Gappies’ – take place at the Jade Jones Pavilion in Flint and the college’s Yale site in Wrexham.
With a vision to help those who experienced adverse childhood experiences or from challenging backgrounds to live their “best independent lives”, WeMindTheGap CEO Ali Wheeler said: “The programmes are vital opportunities for young people in Wrexham and Flintshire to gain and develop new skills, improve their confidence, and encourage them to think about what they need for a better future.
“Work placements and projects like this have changed, and we are hearing from employers that some young people are further away from being ready for work than ever before, for a wide range of reasons including low level mental health and social anxiety, and caring responsibilities at home.
“These are worldwide issues, not just problems in Wrexham and Flintshire, which is why we approach things differently and always tailor the sessions we deliver in person and online to meet these challenges, whilst remaining true to our Theory of Change Model which has shown continued success over the last 10 years.”
She added: “You don’t just become employable, it’s a journey, and we are on that journey together.
“The young people we have here are wonderful, and when given the opportunity to broaden their horizons they are so gifted; we give them a sense of belonging, of structure, purpose, and responsibility.
“We are grateful to Coleg Cambria for their role in helping us to achieve that, the tutors are positive and inspiring, and we are delighted the sessions will now be taking place at Yale as well as Flint, so we can engage with even more young people.”
Gappies are referred to the charity via organisations including JobCentre Plus, local authorities, Careers Wales and The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Cambria’s Curriculum Director for Adult and Work-based Learning Skills Claire Howells has matched dedicated mentors and tutors with individuals and groups to meet their needs, as well as creating bespoke learning plans.
Among them is Basic Skills Lecturer Shell Hotchkiss, who leads Maths and English group lessons in Flint every Thursday.
She said: “This has been a fantastic experience, the Gappies are brilliant and have made so much progress already, their confidence has risen, and you can see the impact being here is having on them.
“We blend the academic side with fun and strategic games, which breaks things up and is a nice, practical way to engage and learn new skills. They have worked so hard and want to achieve something special, which could be life-changing for them.”
Colleague Cat Wood, who will lead the Wrexham cohort, has supported the team at Flint in past weeks.
She added: “Working with WeMindTheGap has been such a rewarding experience. The informal and relaxed setting allows for learners to work on their Maths and English skills at their own pace rather than in a conventional classroom environment.
“It was lovely to see how supportive the learners were of each other both towards their work and away from this.”
Those words were echoed by one of the Gappies, Willow Humphreys, from Bagillt, who said: “I’ve really benefited from WeMindTheGap and being able to develop my skills.
“In the future I would love to do music, and this is a platform for me to move towards that, to build my confidence, see what opportunities are out there and do so in a warm and welcoming environment with structure and a routine, which is so important for many of us.”