February 21, 2014, by Malvika Johal
Think for the Future
First year student and managing Director of Think for the Future, Oliver Bream McIntosh tells us how his project is benefitting from funding from alumni and friends of The University of Nottingham through the Cascade fund.
Tell us a bit about the Think for the Future project and how this came about?
The project has been running since September 2013. It builds on two previous, now dissolved, projects, and is affiliated to Enactus Nottingham, a not-for-profit organisation based in universities worldwide that runs projects both locally and internationally to empower people in need through business. The first of these projects delivered workshops for youth offenders in prisons, many without GCSEs, to help them build the skills and qualifications needed to get into work and hopefully not reoffend when they left prison. The second of these aimed to empower sex workers supported by charities in Nottingham through starting a commercial enterprise.
Taking on what has been learnt from these two earlier projects, Think for the Future now seeks to employ ex-offenders, rehabilitated drug addicts, and sex workers to offer them a route into formal employment. There is only one requirement: that those with a history of drug abuse have quit their addictions, having not used for 6 months.
The people employed by Think for the Future are to be trained to deliver PSHE workshops to secondary school children to educate them about criminal behaviour, criminal justice and sexual abuse. The aim is that, with personal authentic case studies, the young people’s classroom experience will be much more engaged. Young people seem to respond better to social education when it is delivered with personal insight; the better they respond, the more they learn, and the less likely they are to make choices in life that have detrimental consequences in the long term.
The project has been developed in partnership with organisations like P3 and The Probation Service whose role is to identify potential employees for the company and then refer them on. The project is currently developing links with educational charities like TeachFirst and ThinkUKnow.
How many ex-offenders will you be working with? Over what time period?
So far the project has two employees, both in the beginning stages of the training programmes devised for them. The company is currently sourcing two further potential employees, with a view to acquiring a further two at the end of the year. Think for the Future offers people the opportunity to get into employment again for a few hours each week at first, then full-time later on. The hope is that giving them this experience will either allow them to become a central and senior member of the company, or act as a stepping stone to further work opportunities.
What is your role in the project? How many other students will be involved in the project and how will they benefit from being involved?
As with other projects run through Enactus, the student volunteers involved adopt the different roles and functions intended to reflect those you might find in a business of a similar size. The skills and knowledge they gain can then be applied to the world of work following graduation. My role is Managing Director. There are 9 other students involved and the hope is that the programme can be rolled out across the UK in the next few years.
What does being involved in this project mean to you? How has this enhanced your student experience?
As a BA student studying English with Spanish and Portuguese, being involved in this project has provided me with invaluable business experience. I wouldn’t have got this experience otherwise and I know that many of the other students on my course haven’t had access to the same experiences. As well as being really fun it’s also contributing to something incredibly worthwhile. It’s definitely changed my perspective on these issues, having worked with people who’ve had absolutely none of the educational privileges that myself and the other students working as part of the project have had. It’s meant that I’ve had the opportunity to become somewhat more integrated into the community outside of the University and to work with a new group of people. My work with Enactus has also been really important in getting further work experience.
What difference will the Cascade funding you have received make? What would have happened if you didn’t get this funding?
The £9000 grant we received was an amazing amount for us. We have already been able to start a sales push among schools in Nottingham, offering discounts and free workshops. We have developed a relationship with the chairperson of the Nottingham City Schools Partnership, who has been crucial in endorsing our work as a valuable contender for delivery of each school’s PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic) curriculum. We already have meetings with a few schools in the coming weeks, so this backing from the University has definitely fast tracked our progress in this respect, as many schools had previously been reluctant to commit to paying for the course. Cascade funding has also meant that we can say that the University supports us – something which, as an educational charity, enhances our reputation.
What would you say to donors to the Cascade Fund who have helped to fund this project?
Thank you. Your support will do wonders for the young people and adults that we are working with. For the students involved like myself it is giving us invaluable business experience and the opportunity to integrate and make a real difference in the community.