The next phase of Lancashire County Council's £3m project to recruit ex-service personnel as mentors in the county's schools is under way.
The mentors, who will take up their posts on 7th January 2013, will provide support to pupils between the age of 14 and 16 to improve their achievement in class and their attendance at school, and to reduce the number of pupils who are excluded.
The decision to recruit the mentors was taken at a meeting in October by members of Lancashire County Council's cabinet. It has been agreed that the first year of this five-year programme will be run as a pilot project. Pendle and Hyndburn will be the first two districts to benefit from this programme within the initial pilot period. !
In addition to supporting ex-service personnel to retrain and obtain employment, this proposal will also contribute to a reduction in the number of young people who are not in education, employment or training in Lancashire.
The project is being led by a steering group chaired by County Councillor Mark Perks, Cabinet Member for Young People. One Connect Limited's Employment and Support Service is running the programme.
"From the county council's point of view, this initiative fulfils two very important objectives," says County Councillor Perks. "Not only will it provide support to pupils who need some extra help but it also makes use of the mentoring skills that ex-servicemen and women will have acquired while they were serving their country.
"I am very pleased that the first nine of the 50 mentors who will benefit from this scheme have been recruited and will start work in January. The recruits will receive good quality training! and, through the Workstart4Armed Forces model, they will also be help ed to apply for employment opportunities within the county council and its partners.
"We have made a commitment to work more closely with organisations that support ex-service personnel and their families.
"I am very pleased that organisations that support ex-servicemen and women fully support this particular initiative and would like to thank them for their help."
During the pilot period, Skill Force, a specialist training provider, will be commissioned to assess and train the ex-service personnel. Measures such as recruitment and retention of ex-service personnel alongside progress of young people will be assessed and evaluated. The benefits of the lessons learned in the first year will be incorporated into the following four years.
"Working with our partners on this worthwhile initiative has been hugely rewarding," says Anne-Marie Morgan, One Connect Limited's Employment and Support Business Manager. "People who have served their country in the armed forces develop skills that are ideal for this kind of mentoring role.
"The mentors will do their training in county council venues during January and February 2013. They will start working in schools from March onwards.
"We have also recruited an ex-service personnel to the role of Employment Officer to join our team in order to continue to support them once they are there."
The scheme is also receiving backing from County Councillor Mike France, Lancashire's champion for armed forces and veterans:
"This is an excellent project and has my full support," he said. "Ex-service personnel have excellent transferable skills and we at the county council would like to offer as many opportunities as possible for those men and women who have served their country, and this county, so well."