The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted heavily on all our lives – especially those of young people.
With GCSE and A-Level exams being scrapped, and the figure for those claiming jobseekers allowance having more than doubled over the course of the pandemic for those aged between 18 and 24, it is clear that this is an especially difficult time for young people.
But one family-run business in South East Wales is trying to put a stop to the uncertainty young people have about their future. Sgiliau Cyf operates in the education and training sector, supporting those who are struggling in mainstream secondary education, as well as young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are ‘NEET’: not in education, employment, or training.
Sgiliau provides young people with creative, hands-on and engaging activities and subjects, including music, film-making and animation, art and design, photography, textiles, and fashion. ICT skills and new technology are applied in all these areas to help young people enhance their digital skills, while also supporting the development of literacy, numeracy, IT and employability skills.
The centres are equipped with up-to-the-minute features, such as recording studios with Macs to mix music and an urban garden centre, so that the young people can have a hands-on experience in developing their skills.
With six centres across South East Wales, Sgiliau has grown rapidly. They came in 13th place on the Fast Growth 50 list this year with a 265.4% growth rate between 2017 and 2019.
Sgiliau have continued to support young people who have been struggling throughout the pandemic.
“Young people were desperate for company and interaction during the pandemic,” says Charlotte, one of the family members behind Sgiliau.
“As soon as schools could open at the end of June, we decided to open our doors and we have stayed open ever since.
“We were one of the first training providers to do so, and we’re very proud of it.”
In the midst of lockdown, Sgiliau ensured that the young people who would usually attend their classes and workshops stayed motivated by keeping in daily contact and delivering ‘Positive Parcels.’ The parcels contained textile resources, fabrics, food and toiletries to give young people activities to do at home and increase their motivation.
“Mental health went through the roof during the pandemic, so we just wanted to give them something to keep them engaged and encourage them to continue,” Charlotte continued.
“The pandemic was a setback, but it was also an opportunity to look at the problems we faced and come up with a solution,” Lindsay said.
“Shutting down wasn’t an option for us. We wanted to continue no matter what.”
The pandemic continues to impact upon the lives of young people and their access to employment, with ONS data revealing that unemployment among young people has reached 13.4% for 16-24 year olds across the UK.
In the second lockdown, Sgiliau continued to engage with their students on a digital basis, delivering training remotely both in groups and individually for those who required more support.
The team at Sgiliau are determined to continue providing young people with the skills and support they need to access employment, education or training in the future – pandemic or no pandemic.