As part of our commitment to making the professional world a more accessible and inclusive place, TotallyLegal supports Spear Islington, a charity helping local young people facing disadvantage into work. Read on to find out more about the Spear Programme and how you can offer your support to this truly worthwhile cause.
What is the Spear Programme?
The Spear Programme is an initiative of social transformation charity Resurgo and equips 16–24-year-olds with the skills required to overcome disadvantage and succeed in long-term employment. Trainees receive 6 weeks of intensive coaching in a group setting, followed by a full year of personalised support from their coach.
The Spear Programme is currently delivered in 10 locations. This includes 7 centres in London and 3 elsewhere across the UK, in Leeds, Brighton and, most recently, Bournemouth.
The TotallyLegalteam supports the Spear Programme’s delivery in Islington, where Lead Coach Emma Achurch and Centre Manager Melanie Cliff are making a real difference to the lives of young people in the local community. Members of our team volunteer to take part in mock interview sessions and career discussion panels to help trainees prepare for the world of work.
Who is it for?
The Spear Programme is designed for 16–24-year-olds who are facing challenges or barriers to getting into work.
To enrol on the Spear Programme, every trainee needs to be experiencing at least one barrier to employment, and most experience at least three. ‘Barriers to employment’ can include things like:
Receiving free school meals
Being from a welfare-dependent household
Mental health difficulties
Experience of crime or homelessness
Since its inception in 2004, the Spear Programme has worked with more than 6,500 young people across the country. Below, we hear from Jada, a past Spear Islington trainee.
“I used to work at the Premier Inn, but stayed behind the scenes as a kitchen porter where I didn’t have to interact with anyone. I found engaging with people extremely difficult, and eventually had to quit my job as my social anxiety had become so bad.
My self-confidence plummeted. I really wanted to work with young children, but couldn’t even contemplate getting another job.
My work coach at the Job Centre told me about the Spear Programme. Even going along to the Intro Day was really hard for me. I was anxious, and doubtful about how it would help me. But I decided to go for it. Week by week, I kept pushing myself to speak up more in sessions, and my confidence started to grow. I built strong relationships with the other trainees, which I hadn’t expected to be the case.
In week four, I applied for a Nursery Apprenticeship. My Spear coaches supported me through a mock interview to help me prepare. The chance to practice was so valuable; I had great feedback, and I went into the real interview the next day feeling confident. I received a call straight away to offer me the job!
I now work at a Nursery and Primary School, and am loving it. The days are tiring but rewarding. Before the Spear Programme, I would never have imagined having the confidence to work in this kind of role. I’m so grateful to Spear for how they have supported me; I regularly pop in to say hello and keep in touch with the group.”
Spear during the pandemic
We asked Hannah Ridley, Media and Communications Manager at Resurgo, how the Spear Programme has been adapted in response to the pandemic.
“The Spear Programme would ‘normally’ take the format of in-person coaching in our training rooms across the country,” Hannah explains. “The COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020 meant that this delivery was paused, so our team took to the phones, offering one-to-one coaching support to all existing trainees.”
While this was going on, a core team re-wrote the six-week Spear Foundation part of the programme to be tested online via Zoom. Encouraged by initial results, two further pilots began.
“Come August 2020, the full Spear team were retrained to deliver the programme online,” says Hannah. “By September 2020, more than 100 young people were enrolled; by November, every one of our 10 online Spear ‘centres’ were oversubscribed. 56% of our first online cohort are now in work, education or training, which is consistent with our pre-COVID results, and which we consistently see rise to 75% at the 12-month mark.”
As of March 2021, the programme continues to be delivered on Zoom, and currently focuses on some of the specific challenges and considerations of the pandemic, like interviewing by video and applying to jobs in different sectors.
How you can support Spear Islington
You can get involved and support the Spear Programme’s delivery in Islington in a number of ways, either as an individual or through your employer. The three key ways to support Spear Islington and its trainees are:
By volunteering – “We have opportunities to be involved with external panels or mock interviews.”
By referring – “Let us know about a young person in your network who might benefit from our services.”
By giving – “Resurgo and its partner Trusts are registered charities, so the Spear Programme only happens thanks to your generosity!”