Tommy George on how Edinburgh Leisure's Positive Destinations is helping 150 young people to unlock their potential this summer
Schools are now out for summer and for many that means holidays, adventures with your friends, long lies, fun and relaxation. What’s not to love? For some young people, this holiday marks the start of a new phase in their lives as they leave school and pursue their future ambitions. This might be their last break before starting college or university. It could be their chance to enjoy a holiday before starting their first full time job. For these young people it will be a summer they won’t forget. But spare a thought for an estimated 21,000 young people in Scotland, who are leaving school with uncertain futures.
Some young people haven’t enjoyed school and perhaps struggled academically. They may find that they don’t know what they want to do or have had to cope with some tough challenges that have set them back a little. For them, the summer holidays may be filled with confusion and anxiety over what they are going to do next. The Scottish Government class these young people as NEETs, which stands for not in education, employment or training. It can be quite harrowing finding yourself in this situation at such a young age. But even more alarming is that it’s extremely difficult to turn your circumstances around and some young people risk being trapped in a long-term cycle of unemployment and poverty.
it’s extremely difficult to turn your circumstances around and some young people risk being trapped in a long-term cycle of unemployment and povertyTommy George
The Scottish Longitudinal study tracked young people aged between 16 – 19, classed as NEETS in the 1991 census. In 2011, 18% of this group were still unemployed and faced considerable inequalities:
• higher risks of poor physical and mental health
• higher odds of admission to hospital for a variety of conditions
• significantly more likely to be involved in criminal activity
Having worked with children and young people throughout my career, I’ve seen many young people stuck in this trap. Employment, education and training are the best way to enable young people to turn their life around – however some just aren’t ready to make this step. For those young people, unable to engage with traditional employment programmes, I’ve found that sport and physical activity is a powerful tool for change, working as a catalyst to help young people reach their potential. That’s why Edinburgh Leisure’s Positive Destinations project works with around 150 young people each year to increase their motivation, support personal development and encourage learning to unlock their potential. It’s a 12-week programme that aims to boosts their confidence, teach skills for life, helps them attain relevant qualifications and provides practical work experience to get them job ready and one step closer to their positive destination.
Why not watch our short film at www.edinnburghleisure.co.uk/positive-destinations to see how sport and physical activity has changed the lives of young people who took part in the Positive Destinations project. Please also consider sharing the film – I’m keen to raise awareness of the project, encourage referrals and partnerships to enable us to reach those young people that need our help the most this summer.
Tommy George is community development manager at Edinburgh Leisure