An organisation specialising in the virtual world of interactive digital media is giving jobless young people the opportunity to develop exciting new careers in the real world.
Young people from across the West Midlands are being given training in computer games programming and design as well as many other creative sectors including art, video and music.
Visionary social enterprise the Learnplay Foundation, based at The Public in West Bromwich, has more than 200 employees, around 50 of which are young apprentices from Birmingham and the Black Country.
It works alongside organisations that are dedicated to helping young jobseekers find work, including Pertemps People Development Group (PPDG), The Prince’s Trust and Walsall Police, whilst providing support for youth and community groups, schools and charities.
Four of the new recruits are embarking on apprenticeships having started at Learnplay after gaining support from employment and training specialists PPDG, which delivers the Government’s Work Programme in the Black Country.
Phil Eley, aged 18, from Smethwick, trained as a painter and decorator but is now enjoying adapting to a career in the creative arts after securing one of the apprenticeship positions.
“The work here is very varied,” he said. “I’ve been getting involved in practical arts, making props for theatre scenes including a detailed ship scene on a backdrop for the Bayard’s Colts project in Walsall. I wasn’t too sure at first but now I’m really enjoying the challenge.”
Luke Levi, 19, from Wolverhampton, has aspirations to become a music producer and performs his own music at rave events. He was also introduced to the Learnplay Foundation by coach Ranjit Sohal.
“I’ve been creating music for some of the videos Learnplay produce which has given me more of a valuable insight into how the industry operates. I’ve got my own studio and ultimately it’s where I see my future, but working here has given the chance to enhance my existing skills and learn some new ones.” he said.
The Learnplay Foundation’s managing director Ro Hands said: “Our aim is to make a difference to people’s lives using games-based technologies – which entails seizing on the ubiquity of video games, introducing disadvantaged young people to the techniques that lie behind them, and sparking their creative impulses, with a view to altering the direction of their lives.
“Our whole raison d’etre is to work with people from the most deprived communities. We offer them opportunities: employment opportunities, learning opportunities, accredited learning, work experience, pathways into doing creative and meaningful things that give them a real, tangible output.”
The Foundation prides itself on working with NEET’s – young people not in education, employment of training – to reconnect them with the education, training and the job market. It also runs outreach programmes, taking its work into communities.
Developing games can benefit the wider community. Games created by the clients are used in partnerships with primary schools to improve literacy and numeracy. Pensioners use other applications designed to allay the effects of dementia.
Employment Minister Mark Hoban, reflecting on how the Work Programme is helping to turn around lives and improve job prospects for thousands of people across the region, said: “Jobseekers are getting individual and tailored support giving them a realistic chance of finding work, while businesses are benefiting from recruits with the right skills and motivation. Work Programme is also a winner for taxpayers as unlike previous welfare to work schemes, providers are rewarded in line with the results they deliver.”