Work hard, play hard and give something back – the Enlight Foundation is the Entrepreneurial Exchange’s charity. Here, John Anderson catches up with Colette Grant and Alan Revie, two of the charity’s directors, on their work in 2011.
J: So what has the Enlight Foundation been working on this year?
C: We’ve made our first investment through the Strategic Programme to help Looked After and Accommodated young people in Renfrewshire and through the Change Programme we’re helping SkillForce Scotland to expand and work with more young people in schools in Aberdeenshire and Fife, to try and prevent them leaving school with no job or further education planned. We’ve also restructured and registered Enlight as an independent charity, which gives us greater control but also helps us work more closely with the Exchange Board.
J: Can you tell me a bit more about SkillForce Scotland and how Enlight works with them?
A: Over the last 20 years the numbers of young people underachieving in school and consequently ending up unemployed has changed little. One in nine 16-19 year olds remain not employed, in education or training and the estimated annual cost to the country is £3.65 billion, £97k per young person.
Since 2009, Enlight has been working with SkillForce Scotland who are trying to change those statistics. They provide an in-school programme that draws together vocational qualifications, community volunteering and life skills in the classroom and through outdoor activities. They work with 700 young people, who are at risk from being excluded from school, in 26 schools in Morayshire, Lanarkshire, Edinburgh and Forth Valley and now Aberdeenshire. The SkillForce programme is taken in place of a Standard Grade by S3 & S4 students and they typically spend 4 periods per week for two years with their instructors (the majority being ex-armed forces personnel), giving young people continuity, stability and positive role models.
Enlight provided financial support for a formal evaluation of the outcomes of the SkillForce which provided clear evidence of its success:
• 24% predicted exclusion from school, reduced to 4% actual exclusion
• 60% on free school meals go into further education versus just 9% nationally
• 93% gain recognised qualifications
• 94% move into employment, education or training
This national charity has undergone dramatic change in the last few years, going from 91% to 0% government (MOD) funded in 6 years. Exchange members have given their time and skills and helped to rebrand and position the charity, given advice on the business model, helped to establish a Scotland Advisory Group and invested in how the charity measures its performance and success with young people. Working to an agreed plan they’ve created a stable platform for the organisation to grow and increase the number of young people they work with in Scotland.
J: So is Enlight investing in their expansion?
A: Exactly – we helped them to secure LEADER (European) funding for three schools in Aberdeenshire and we’re working with our members in the Aberdeen area to try and raise the match funding we need for next year. We also want them to engage with the SkillForce students by giving time to go along to school and speak with them, potentially offer work placements and so on. Bob Keiller and Ernst and Young kindly hosted an event in Aberdeen earlier in November so we could explain to members there how SkillForce will help their local teenagers and how they can get involved.
J: You mentioned the Strategic Programme how is that different to your work with SkillForce?
C: Our Strategic Programme focuses on one of the most significant challenges in Scotland today – changing the future life chances for young people who are looked after or in care. Most children and young people become looked after for care and protection reasons. These can include neglect, mental, physical or emotional abuse, parental substance misuse or poor parenting skills, or a child or young person may have become involved in the youth justice system. So there’s a synergy between the two programmes with the backgrounds of the young people and the challenges they face, and the focus on education and skills development. The difference is the Strategic Programme is looking at even earlier intervention and systemic change by working directly with local authorities.
J: So what does that mean in terms of your work with Renfrewshire Council?
C: The number of looked after children in Renfrewshire is the highest it has ever been and they have seen a 30% increase in the number of LA Children in the last five years. We’ve provided funding and pro-bono support for a model that’s working with 8-13 year olds to improve their education attainment, but also attendance, behaviour and engagement. It’s such a critical time as this is when evidence shows you begin to see a difference in numeracy and literacy skills and there’ the difficult transition to high school. By working initially in primary schools we can provide the support they need to achieve in line with their peers – or even better – achieve more.
J: Has it been challenging working with the public sector?
C: There are undoubtedly differences between the public and private sectors, but In Renfrewshire we’ve seen an authority that really wants to change and is looking for external advice and input. We’re supporting them with a longer-term strategy to re-focus their children’s services to achieve the best outcomes for its most vulnerable children. It’s an ambitious and radical approach that’s unprecedented in Scotland – that takes real leadership and ambition.
J: So what does the future hold for Enlight?
A: Next year we’ll be looking to expand both of our existing programmes and considering new opportunities, but we can only do that with the support of our members. We carried out some research earlier this year with members to make sure our original vision of a venture philanthropy which enables members to give expertise, skills and time pro-bono as well as money was still of interest. We had a very positive response and we’ve taken all of the feedback on board. We know our members have the chance to achieve something spectacular by working together and Colette, Jim McColl and I are really excited to be part of it.
If you think you can help, by giving time or some financial support, or would like to find out more contact Imogen Assenti from Enlight on 07793 238460 or email@example.com