2020 ESF case study: Advantage Foundation - Quest 1

Quest is an employability project organised by the Advantage Foundation Ltd and funded by the Northern Ireland European Social Fund 2014-2020, the Department for the Economy and the Department of Justice, dedicated to helping young offenders positively change their current path and unlock their true potential.

The project

The project is designed to break the reoffending cycle by equipping young offenders with the skills, support, resources, network and ethics to compete more effectively for employment.

26 young offenders each year complete Quest Employability Skills training which then sees trainees progress to work experience in Mugshots, the Advantage Foundation’s social enterprise. The trainees are not paid, but instead can access a Bursary Scheme to help them in their future careers upon release.

Participant's story

This participant left school with 11 GCSEs, all of which were very good grades. After a year of retail work, he began a Bachelor of Science (Honours) degree with the Open University and was well on track to successfully graduating.

It was at this time, however, that the participant was arrested, charged and subsequently received a custodial sentence, some of which was to be spent in Hydebank Wood College. Whilst serving his sentence at Hydebank Wood, the participant was introduced to the Quest project.

Help from Quest to apply for jobs

As the participant was granted conditional early release (CER), he started to think about his future options and plans for what he was to do once leaving the care of Hydebank Wood. He joined Quest primarily to apply for jobs ahead of release and to create a CV.

The participant completed an Employability Skills Open College Network (OCN) certificate and worked in Mugshots to gain more hours work experience. Ahead of his release date the project also worked to get him ‘work ready’ by creating a CV, searching for and completing several job applications, developing a disclosure letter and preparing for interviews.

Although the participant had previously been successful at interview and been employed, he wanted to ensure he had advice and guidance on how to disclose his criminal conviction and still lead to a job offer.

Full time work and continued study

Within weeks of the participant being released from prison he secured two job offers, and accepted a full-time position in a retail outlet. He also completed an oral examination from the Open University, which allowed him to pass his year of studies and continue his path towards his degree.

Almost one year on, the project caught up with the participant who has maintained steady employment. The project was still able to assist him complete additional training courses with support from their bursary fund. The participant will graduate shortly and is now working towards his long-term career goal. The project says it is always ready to assist with job applications, refresh on interview techniques etc.

Quest not only helps reduce the reoffending rate of the young person, but it also tries to ensure there are less victims of crime.

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