A group of young people have a shot at a brighter future after attending a finishing school with a difference.
Nine people between the ages of 16 and 21 took part in a course held at Newtown Park aimed at improving their prospects of finding employment.
The 10-week Sport Works course, hosted by the Newtown Park Association, was classroom-based but also involved physical activity too, making full use of the facilities at the stadium, three days a week.
And the nine course attendees were presented with Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) awards to mark their graduation and their achievement in taking a huge step towards finding jobs.
The course was wholly funded by the Coalfields Regeneration Trust (CRT) as part of their Game On Scotland initiative and was delivered by the Falkirk Football Community Foundation.
“Everyone who started the programme has finished it, and that is always a massive success,” said Grant Ferguson, physical activities and well-being officer of the Falkirk Foundation.
Grant explained that the target at the outset was to ensure that at least 70 per cent of those who enrolled on the course were from the Bo’ness area, and that they had exceeded that target. “Seven of those nine people are Bo’ness, which is great,” he said.
“It has gone really well. Quite a few of them are now going on to college, and others have been applying for jobs. One boy had an interview last week, and another might have a full-time job.
“So as well as the confidence-boosting aspect of the course, and how enjoyable it has been, a lot of them are actually getting something at the end of it.”
Grant said that the as well as boosting the attendees’ skills development and job prospects, health and well-being played a big part of the course too.
“The way the course worked was that every day from 10am to 12 noon they were doing classroom work, and then from 1-3pm they were outside doing physical activity or playing football.”
He added that the attendees - eight males and one female - had their fitness monitored over the duration of the course and that there had been noticeable improvements across the board.
“The engagement has been great since day one, and the fact that they have all got physically fitter means that mentally they are feeling better about themselves as well, and they all confirmed that,” he said.
“To top it off 100% isn’t always something we would aim for, but the fact that we’ve got 100% of the attendees going on to positive destinations is absolutely superb.
“You can’t get any better than that.”
Sean Laird, development manager of the CRT’s Game On Scotland initiative, explained that this was their second delivery of the Sport Works programme post-pandemic.
“Last year we held it in Kelty in Fife and this year in Bo’ness after identifying a need in this area,” he said.
“Absolute credit to those who signed up for the course - their commitment in buying into the programme was what made it a success.
“They’ve picked up on the skills side of things as well as gaining qualifications. Some of these people have never sat an interview, so it gives them that little bit of experience and a bit more confidence.
“They are all going on to positive destinations and they have all got volunteering experience through work with Active Schools in their holiday programme as well – hands-on vocational work, so to speak.
“It’s been really fantastic to see the impact this year’s programme has had and the impact it’s hopefully going to have on the start of these young peoples’ journeys moving forwards.”
Sean added that the next step will be to decide how the CRT can build on the success of the last two courses.
“We’ll sit down with Falkirk Foundation and review how the course has gone and where we go with this, whether it’s a secondary session in Bo’ness or another coalfield community where there is that demand for the course to be delivered,” he said.
“It has been a really successful course and it has been well received by the young people who attended.”
Among those who attended the event which brought the curtain down on the Sport Works course at Newtown Park was MSP Richard Leonard, former leader of the Scottish Labour Party. He later hailed the success of the course, posting on Twitter and Facebook: “Fantastic to meet the team of young people supported by Falkirk Football Community Foundation and the Coalfields Regeneration Trust.
“Everyone a success story - moving into jobs and further education. Great work!”
Robert Snedden, chairman of the Newtown Park Association, said: “We are delighted to have partnered the Coalfields Regeneration Trust and Falkirk Foundation in delivering this course for young adults in the local area.
“Although Newtown Park will always be associated with sporting activities, it is the goal of NPA to work with the community to deliver a "Hub" on the site to meet the social needs of the people in that location.”
The nine course attendees and their positive destinations at the end of the Sport Works course: Aaron Black, aged 17, (Bo’ness) Forth Valley College, Creative Industries course
- Kieran Davidson, 21 (Brightons), Forth Valley College, Sports and Leisure
- Kieran Bell 18, (Alva) Forth Valley College, Fair Start Scotland
- Olivia Henderson, 16 (Bo’ness), Forth Valley College, Centre Forward*, Active Schools, Soccer Stars
- Logan Jackson, 16 (Bo’ness), Forth Valley College Centre Forward* or full-time employment with Miller Homes
- Ryan Livingstone, 17 (Bo’ness), Forth Valley College, Centre Forward* and RJM Sports
- Tommy Robertson, 17 (Bo’ness), full-time employment with RJM Sports
- Chris Robertson, 16 (Bo’ness), Forth Valley College, Sports and Fitness
- Robert Downs, 18 (Bo’ness), Forth Valley College, Working with Communities and possibly HGV driving.
*Centre Forward is a partnership course between Forth Valley College and the Falkirk Football Community Foundation