Youthreach is a Department of Education and Skills official education, training and work experience programme for early school leavers aged 15-20, providing them with opportunities to acquire certification through QQI accredited courses or to complete Leaving and Leaving Certificate Applied programmes.
In conjunction with these, options such as the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL), the FasTrack to Information Technology (FIT), Manual Handling, Beauty Therapy and Barista are also offered.
In Youthreach, flexibility is imperative at all levels – management, staffing and delivery. The curriculum is varied, (academic and non-academic subjects), and integrated across modules enabling the individual to develop their personal, social and civic skills in a supportive and caring environment.
‘Youthreach to me is like a second home. Youthreach makes me feel confident and secure in an educational environment. It’s turned my life around and made me realise that I CAN do well in education and get my qualifications allowing me to have a career.’
It helps students increase their self-esteem while achieving certification allowing progression into work, college and/or apprenticeships. It promotes independence, personal autonomy, active citizenship and helps create a pattern of lifelong learning. Young people learn at their own pace and enter for certification when they are ready. This approach is particularly facilitated by the modular structure of QQI certification and the LCA programme.
Youthreach is co-funded by the Government of Ireland and the European Social Fund as part of the Programme for Employability, Inclusion and Learning 2014-2020.Youthreach focuses on the holistic development of the individual within a learning environment which is safe, structured, challenging, student-centred and participant-led.
‘I’m a Retail Director now. I’ve come a long way since I went into the office for a chat to join Youthreach Rush. I have no doubt joining Youthreach was the absolute making of me as a person.’
Conor Dewey 2004
Although all centres are alike, no two are the same and flexibility at all levels is essential to achieve the goal of helping young people return to learning, prepare for employment and adult life. Essential course elements include personal and social development, vocational skills and communications skills.
Regarded as equals
Youthreach adopts a credit approach, as opposed to a therapeutic approach. Young people are not approached on the basis of perceived deficits; rather, they are regarded as equals.
‘Youthreach is a place where you feel safe, enjoy your time and can be confident the teachers will help you leave with qualifications that will help you get further in life.’
The essential question is – ‘what do you think are your strengths and how can we help you to maximise them, and what do you think are your weaknesses and how can we help you to address them?’ As well as being learner centred, the approach is also experiential.
Interactions with staff are less formal and many observers argue that this is an important component in the programme’s success. The young people perceive themselves to be listened to and respected. Groups are relatively small – the teacher-learner ratio is about 12:1.
Take responsibility for learning
Youthreach is an integrated experience – personal, communications and vocational skills are integrated in a curricular and experiential matrix. There is a growing focus on developing individualised action plans, building self-agency and encouraging the learner to take responsibility for learning and evaluating their own learning.