2020 ESF case study: Advantage Foundation - Quest 2

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

Project for young offenders

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 was very young when he was arrested, charged and subsequently received a sentence of several years in custody for the crime he committed.

Whilst serving his sentence in Hydebank Wood College, the participant was introduced to the Quest project.

As the participant was nearing release on license, he started to think about his future options and plans for what he was to do once leaving the care of Hydebank Wood. He had participated in joinery and painting workshops but he knew he needed to look to move into employment upon release and so joined Quest.

Employability Skills certificate

The participant completed an Employability Skills Open College Network (OCN) certificate and worked in Mugshots to gain more than 60 hours work experience. Ahead of his release date the project also worked with the participant to get him ‘work ready’ by creating for him a CV, searching for and completing job applications, developing a disclosure letter and preparing for interviews.

The participant had no experience of how to compete in the job market due to his age when he was convicted of his crime, so to ensure he could enter the job market as competitive as possible, it was imperative that the project continued supporting him in these areas post release.

Securing employment and continued support

Within weeks of being released from prison, the participant had contacted the project and they continued to support him with job searching. The project helped him apply for an apprenticeship role for which he attended an interview and eventually he secured employment in the kitchen of a high-end restaurant and bar. His hard work and potential were noticed, and he was soon promoted and trained as a chef.

Almost one year on, the project caught up with the participant. He has maintained steady employment in the restaurant and is preparing for driving lessons which the project is still able to support him with, in the form of their bursary fund. The participant is now ready to think about his long-term career and the project is always ready to assist with job applications, refresh on interview techniques etc.

He commented:

“You didn’t look at my crime. You looked at me. You didn’t ask about my past, you just focused on the future.”

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

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