With ONS figures showing a rise in the number of 16 to 24 year olds out of work this year, it is more essential than ever to equip this generation with the skills they need to succeed in the workforce.
Enter Sgiliau Cyf, a family-run business operating in the education and training sector. In addition to supporting those who are struggling in mainstream secondary education, Sgiliau specialises in supporting young people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are ‘NEET’: not in education, employment, or training.
Sgiliau provides these young people with creative, hands-on and engaging activities, offering a wide range of learning opportunities. Students are able to engage with a wealth of creative 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. Sgiliau also supports the development of literacy, numeracy, ICT and employability skills to ensure that young people are equipped to enter the workforce or able to progress onto higher levels of training and education.
The centres are equipped with 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.
The team behind the business is the Evans family, including father Lindsay, mother Beverley, daughter Charlotte, and son Jordan. This family approach has helped the business to build strong bonds and relationships with the young people they work with.
After Charlotte and Jordan left university, studying fashion and textiles, and music technology respectively, Lindsay said it felt right to develop the business around their creative skills to help other young people access similar opportunities.
“We wanted other young people to get to experience what we had at university,” said Charlotte.
After seeing his son blossom when he became involved in music as a drummer, Lindsay said he wanted to give other young people the same opportunity.
“What always bothered me was that other young people might not be able to pay to access extra support, meaning that when they leave school they become ‘NEET.’”
Lindsay said that the aim of Sgiliau was to provide young people with essential skills like literacy and numeracy, but to dress it up in something that is enjoyable and engaging.
“If young people enjoy doing something, then they probably won’t mind writing about it, and we try to fit that into qualifications,” he said.
“My whole career has been working with 16-24 year olds who are unemployed. When I came out of university in the 1980s, I was unemployed and I can remember how soul destroying it was.”
Since then, his career has been based around keeping young people in employment and helping them acquire the skills they need to get there.
“I think we’re offering something different from every other provider in South East Wales,” said Charlotte.
“While colleges provide creative subjects, a lot of training is based around more practical areas like health and social care, motor vehicles, or customer service.
“At Sgiliau, we can see them express themselves through art and media and really grow and develop as a result.”
As the uncertainty brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic continues to heavily impact on the futures of young people in Wales, Sgiliau hopes to continue to provide them with the skills and support they need to develop their careers.
“Our aim is to care for and nurture young people until they are ready to take their next steps,” Charlotte said.