First Strawberry Field graduates honoured at special event
After 15 months on the Steps to Work programme at Strawberry Field, the first cohort of young adults with learning difficulties or barriers to employment is successfully graduating from the programme, with one trainee having already secured a job once they graduate.
Owned by The Salvation Army and made famous by the Beatles, Strawberry Field has a long-standing connection with young people in Liverpool.
In 2019, the iconic red gates opened to the public for the very first time, the new Strawberry Field includes a visitor exhibition, community café, shop and gardens - at its heart – the ‘Steps to Work’ programme, which continues the legacy of caring for young people in the local community. All proceeds from the vibrant visitor experience go directly to fund the Steps to Work programme, with further opportunities to support the programme through fundraising opportunities, volunteering, sponsoring a trainee or offering a work placement.
The Steps to Work programme reaches out to young adults with learning difficulties or other barriers to employment through a training hub on the lower ground floor of Strawberry Field. Opportunities are limited for many people with learning disabilities. Nationally, only between 6% and 7% of working age adults with learning disabilities are in paid employment. Steps to Work broaches these obstacles for every young person they work with, supporting them to reach their full potential.
Alan Triggs, The Salvation Army’s Steps to Work programme manager said,
“Working with our young people within the Liverpool City Region is both inspiring and rewarding. Seeing our trainees grown and develop in terms of confidence, belief and self-esteem is truly amazing. As cohort one start to enter the world of work and gain more independence the spirit of Steps to Work is truly realised”
Most significantly, after completing the Steps to Work programme, one trainee has already been offered a job. Through the programme, Chris Higginson, 22, has worked in three theatres in the Hope Street area of Liverpool; the Unity, Hope Street Theatre and the Everyman. Chris has now been offered a job as an Usher and General Theatre Assistant at the Everyman and will take up his new position over the next few weeks. Chris said,
“The Steps to Work programme is brilliant. I love it and I really enjoy taking part; it has helped me 100%. I’m a lot happier and more confident in myself now and that is all thanks to the programme and the support that the work coaches have given me.”
“I’m so happy that I’ve got a job, especially working at the Everyman Theatre because I like drama that much, it’s great being involved in it all like the shows and everything; I’m really made up. I’ve wanted to get a job for years.”
In addition to this, there are opportunities for two trainees to complete an apprenticeship with a local nursery and a fourth trainee is now a permanent volunteer at Strawberry Field.
Thanks to a partnership with the City of Liverpool College and the investment of local businesses and organisations, Steps to Work offers a 12-18 month programme that combines education and work placements to ensure trainees are truly work ready. Through the programme, trainees spend time on a ‘work readiness course’, which aims to provide them with the tools they need to gain independence, discover their potential and learn skills which will help them in the world of work. After this, trainees are encouraged to experience three separate work placements with support from their own dedicated work coach.
The graduation ceremony was led by the Steps to Work team alongside Mission Director, Major Kathy Versfeld. The celebration saw each trainee receive a certificate of graduation from Strawberry Field Honorary President, Julia Baird, there was also an opportunity for the work coaches to share with the 50 plus guests, how each trainee has been transformed by the programme so far.