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Spear Islington: Cally project helping disadvantaged young people find work celebrates its first birthday

PUBLISHED: 09:00 30 December 2017

Philip Wagstaff found an apprenticeship with the Flooring Group in Barnsbury Street after completing a free course with Spear Islington. Picture: Polly Hancock

Philip Wagstaff found an apprenticeship with the Flooring Group in Barnsbury Street after completing a free course with Spear Islington. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

Spear Islington has spent a year providing young people with the skills they need to find work. To mark its first birthday. The Gazette spoke to two of the Cally project’s most recent graduates to find out how it kickstarted their careers.

Philip Wagstaff found an apprenticeship with the Flooring Group in Barnsbury Street after completing a free course with Spear Islington. Picture: Polly Hancock Philip Wagstaff found an apprenticeship with the Flooring Group in Barnsbury Street after completing a free course with Spear Islington. Picture: Polly Hancock

It’s been a big 12 months for Spear Islington.

The Cally project, which runs at St David’s Church in Westbourne Road, is celebrating its first year helping young, disadvantaged people from Islington find work with local employers. So far, 90 have been through its doors.

It’s one of eight Spear projects run in churches across London by Resurgo, a charity that links young job hunters with businesses willing to take them on.

And its success stories include people like 17-year-old Philip Wagstaff, who now works as a warehouse trainee at the Flooring Group’s Islington branch in Barnsbury Street.

“I’d started this barbering course, going to college and working as a trainee barber for about seven weeks, but I quit because I wasn’t making rent,” he said.

“For about four months afterwards, I sat at home doing nothing. I tried applying for jobs but none of them got back to me. My mum was badgering me for rent money.

Chianne Buckle from the Spear Islington team. Picture: Spear Chianne Buckle from the Spear Islington team. Picture: Spear

“Then a lady at Lift youth club in Angel referred me to Spear.”

Philip, who lives off the Holloway Road, joined Spear in May. Aside from his seven weeks’ experience as a trainee barber, he’d never had a job before.

“We went in every weekday afternoon and would have a different task each day – group work, working on CVs, building our confidence, speaking in front of others,” he said.

“The tutors were very open, friendly and welcoming, and they created this kind of big family atmosphere.

“They were always in a good mood – if we came in in a bad mood they would always do everything they could to cheer us up and motivate us.”

The course includes a six-week intensive foundation phase, mock interviews and sessions on presenting yourself professionally.

"They were always in a good mood – if we came in in a bad mood they would always do everything they could to cheer us up and motivate us."

Islington Flooring apprentice Philip Wagstaff, 17

But as well as equipping young people with the skills they need to pass a job interview, Spear focuses on boosting self-esteem.

“Spear helped me so much with my confidence,” added Philip.

“They got me to do constant presentations and, on our leavers’ day, they got me up and speaking about the experience in front of lots of people.

“They even invited me to come speak to the most recent group that graduated.”

Of Spear’s graduates, 75 per cent get a job straight out of the course – and are still there after a year.

Backing from high-profile organisations like Marks and Spencer, Unilever and Accenture is evidence of the programme’s success, and their faith in the quality of the trainees coming out.

Emma West from the Spear Islington team. Picture: Spear Emma West from the Spear Islington team. Picture: Spear

Philip admits that while his job is sometimes quite physically demanding, he’s relishing the challenge, even picking up extra shifts on Saturdays so he can learn about sales in the hope of advancing through the company.

“They’re trying to get me back to do the office side of it so that I can learn both sides of retail,” he said.

“Trying to juggle the two sides is hard, but I want to learn the retail and sale sides quickly so I can move up through that.”

Sam Tonks, 25, joined Spear in June. She’d always wanted to work with animals, but didn’t have enough confidence to put herself forward for jobs.

“I would hardly talk to people I didn’t know,” she said, “so I would have to ask my mum to help me.”

After briefly studying music at college, she dropped out to begin volunteering on a farm – before an advisor from Jobs in Mind referred her to Spear.

“They made me more confident and more comfortable within myself. Now I’m able to talk to people I don’t know,” she said.

“They did one-to-one sessions with me to try and see why I didn’t feel confident, and they did these groups where you were put with three or four others with the same problem. It was good to see we were all in the same position.”

Since October, Sam has been working front of house at the Vue cinema in Angel, a role that puts her face to face with customers on a daily basis.

She said: “It’s good fun and it’s good to get to know people and interact with customers.

“I find I’m talking to lots of different people because they’re always asking questions about the films.”

Spear’s work, which has so far helped 4,000 young Londoners, relies on support and donations. You can visit resurgo.org.uk/spear if you would like to help.

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