YouthReach Review Highlights Benefits

Youthreach Courses IrelandAn independent review of the Youthreach programme published in June 2019 indicates that it continues to have significant benefits for young people who leave school early.

Youthreach helps early school-leavers to employment through training, education and work experience. While there has been a steady decline in the number of early school-leavers over the past decade, those young people who do leave school early require more specialist support than in the past and are in greater danger of marginalisation, without the programme’s intervention.

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) conducted an independent evaluation of the Youthreach programme in late 2018 which has since been published by SOLAS, the Further Education and Training Authority, along with its report and recommendations in response to the evaluation.

Minister for Education and Skills Joe McHugh T.D said: “I know the value of youth intervention, having worked in the sector, albeit many years ago. The Youthreach Evaluation is an important piece of research which examines the hard work being carried out in Youthreach centres by our education and training boards and in the community-led training centres.

“It’s clear from the report that Youthreach is working well for young people who have left school early – the majority either complete the programme and are awarded certification, or go straight into employment. It shows that young people who get the support that they need from Youthreach have a greater chance of progressing into training and employment than other young people who leave school early.

Evaluation Findings

Key findings from the ESRI evaluation of the Youthreach programme include:

  • An overall decline in demand for Youthreach from 2015 to 2017, as the economy has continued to improve and the long-term trend of decline in early school-leaving has continued.
  • An increase in the number of severely marginalised young people requiring support from Youthreach, including Irish Travellers and young people from migrant backgrounds.
  • An increase also in the number of young people with mental health issues participating in Youthreach programmes.
  • Amongst the general population of early school-leavers, only 10 per cent entered education or training courses between 2010 and 2017.  Of those who participated in Youthreach, however, 45 per cent went on to further education and training courses.
  • Approximately 69 per cent of Youthreach learners complete the programme. Of those who complete the programme, approximately 60 per cent receive certification.

Commenting on the review Andrew Brownlee, Executive Director at SOLAS, said: “Among the present generation of early leavers, we are seeing an increase in the complexities of their needs – whether they have mental health issues, come from migrant backgrounds so may not have English as a first language or have faced discrimination, or have previously engaged in anti-social behaviour. We are seeing an increase in young people who have left school early who have also having experienced childhood trauma, substance abuse issues and involvement in anti-social behaviour or crime. Youthreach has a hugely important role to place in supporting them to continue with education as well as receiving the additional social support they need.”

SOLAS recommendations for Youthreach

Commenting further, Mr. Brownlee said: “In response to the ESRI report, SOLAS has developed a number of recommendations to improve Youthreach and respond to the ongoing need for support for young people at risk of exclusion from education and training.”

SOLAS’s recommendations for the future of Youthreach include:

  • Greater promotion of Youthreach, particularly amongst communities traditionally excluded from further education and training opportunities, such as Travellers and young people from migrant backgrounds.
  • Enhanced collaboration with the Education and Training Boards and Community Training Centres responsible for delivering Youthreach to review the sustainability of providing Youthreach in the longer term.
  • Strengthening pathways for Youthreach participants to progress on to further education and training programmes such as PLC courses, apprenticeships and traineeships.

The report can be downloaded from SOLAS here: SOLAS Research

To learn more or to get involved with Youthreach view their website at http://www.youthreach.ie/

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