A not-for-profit project that supports young people in Swindon interested in setting up their own business has secured £100k in funding in just three months.
The good news comes as youth unemployment continues to rise as a result of the pandemic.
The latest cash injection to The Platform Project is a £35,000 grant from the BBC Children In Need fund
“Here at The Platform Project we are growing at an extraordinary rate – we have quadrupled each year since launching three years ago and we have secured more funding in the 1st quarter of our fourth year than we did during the whole of our previous financial year," said founder Sadie Sharp.
“This means we are rapidly adding services to our youth development programmes to help meet the growing number of NEETS (young people Not in Employment, Education & Training).
"The Covid-19 impact on the job market has had a disproportionate effect on entry-level jobs that young people tend to access.
"This has been true in Swindon and nationwide, and these young people need support to begin their careers.”
The company runs a number of small-scale innovative youth-led businesses, including the youth magazine #iDare, a digital media marketing agency and a printed goods business, where the young adults do everything you would in a normal business including managing social media, liaising with customers, making decisions, and managing project finances.
Sadie said: “The youth enterprise projects are used as a rapid development vehicle to help young people transition into work or self-employment, and the funding we have received pays for more sessions to run the projects, as well as adding extra layers of support to help the interns take their next steps.”
“This includes one-to-one support from an employability and enterprise mentor, where a young person is paired up with professionals in their respective field of interest. This scheme is being funded with a £35,000 grant from BBC Children in Need.
"We’ve also secured £25,000 from the John Lewis Partnership to pay for a professional to broker relationships with local employers and self-employed freelancers to offer short work shadowing and work experience placements to help the interns build up their CV.”
This year has seen The Platform Project transform from having a single staff member to over ten, and from a single project activity to eight with more coming on stream.
The not-for-profit organisation was launched to run itself like a business and to become self-sustaining and to date, it has generated more than 40 percent of its income through commercial activity by providing its services to schools, colleges and local companies.
It has expanded its board of directors to help guide the growth, which now includes Jon Joyce, the local director of Metro Bank, Andy Langley, the operations director from Swindon-based IT firm Ntegra, and local philanthropic entrepreneur James Phipps as chairman.
“The results we’ve had this year alone have been astounding," said James. "We’ve had young people who dropped out of education early go back to college because they have found a career that actually interests them after working on one of our projects.
"We’ve had young people who have been unable to secure traditional work because of physical and learning needs who have gone on to be self-employed and start earning a freelance income.
“When traditional job opportunities aren’t as available as they used to be, you need to think creatively about your options, and this youth enterprise organisation offers the flexibility to design programmes around young people’s skills and interests.
“It has been great to see local businesses like Ntegra really support the project and its growth and for respected organisations like the National Lottery and John Lewis financially supporting to help even more young people in 2021.
"We have a fantastic team from the board and staff to volunteers, now more than ever we need businesses and mentors to come forward to help us to give these young people the best chance of success in the crucial years of their lives.”
The Platform Project is opening up new places for young people aged 16-21 from January onwards to participate in its youth-led businesses development schemes to can help young people transition to work or self-employment.