Unity provides Kickstart to young career prospects

Unity Employment Outreach Officers Kelly Jennings (far left) and Lorraine Charlton (far right) with Kickstart employees Shannon, Deshanti, Samit and Ben

Leeds housing association Unity Homes and Enterprise is giving four talented young people the opportunity to develop their workplace experience and skills with six-month placements through the Kickstart scheme. Funded by the Government, Kickstart is open to individuals aged 16-24 who are claiming Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment.

Unity, based in Chapeltown, has provided four placements across four different parts of the organisation. Two recruits are working in housing, with the regeneration and finance teams welcoming one new employee to their ranks.

Each successful candidate was selected following a challenging selection process including a panel interview. Since taking up their posts, the young people have been having monthly one to one meetings with their line managers to review progress and explore any training needs that will help them to fulfil their respective job requirements.

Members of Unity’s employment services team also meet with each of the trainees fortnightly to talk about their individual goals and expectations. These conversations help the advisors prepare the candidates for their future job search.

Between three and six months into the placement, bespoke skills sessions are delivered in-house including CV building, completing application forms, interview preparation and techniques, understanding strengths and weaknesses, and achieving a positive work/life balance through efficient time management.

The central aim of the training is to enable the candidates to recognise the skills and knowledge they have gained throughout their placements and better understand their choice of career paths including next steps.

Wayne Noteman, Unity Regeneration Director, said: “I’m a firm believer in growing our own so it’s fantastic to have these impressive young people working with us. Each of them comes from local surrounding communities and has their own unique life stories to tell. What they share are youthful energy, high levels of ability in the workplace, a willingness to learn and a burning desire to succeed.

“All of which will increase their confidence and make them more marketable in the workplace. We look forward to helping them to continue flourishing with Unity, before using the experience and new skills they have gained to progress their future careers.”

Cedric Boston, Unity Chief Executive, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer placements to our four recruits. I heard nothing but positive comments for their work, with each already regarded as a valued member of staff.

“They also encapsulate Unity’s social purpose which is to fight inequality and empower BME people to improve their lives by creating opportunities and helping to regenerate communities. Through our involvement in Kickstart, in addition to other projects aimed at boosting the employment prospects of young people, we are making a real difference.”

Shannon has completed a Level 3 – BTEC National Diploma in sports and exercise science and is currently assisting the maintenance team with arranging customer appointments, data input and liaising with contractors. She has also spent time with the housing income management and customer service departments.

She said: “I have learnt a lot so far. I have really benefitted from shadowing the housing officers and seeing at first hand the wide variety of work they do.”

Samit has completed A-Level economics, mathematics and physics, and would like to go to university this year to study economics and finance. He is currently assisting the finance team with inputting and raising invoices.

Samit said: “This is a genuinely great opportunity, setting me up for anything I may want to do in the future. With great colleagues and a wonderful work environment, joining Unity was one of the best decisions I could have made.”

Deshanti has experience within customer service and cashier roles, having completed GCSE business studies, electronic document preparation, principles of accounts and family resource and management. She is currently working with the housing team, directly managing a small number of tenancies, shadowing housing officers and assisting tenants with their queries.

Deshanti said: “I find the team very supportive in helping me gain customer service and IT skills. Unity has motivated me to work harder and be more confident with leadership roles, developing interpersonal skills and problem solving skills in a positive environment.”

Ben has worked in a Jobcentre and completed NVQ Level 2 qualifications in business administration and customer service. He is already a valued member of the regeneration team, visiting development sites and learning how Unity provides new homes for local communities in Leeds.

Ben said: “The regeneration team has shown me how Unity goes through the process of acquiring new properties. I enjoy being on site and meeting with the construction teams.”