It seems these days that everyone has a coach, I have one, my colleagues have one, my friends have one, even Richard Branson has one, and now finally young people can have one too. Like wheels on suitcases, it amazes me how long it took to realise that this is a good idea.
The benefit of having a go to person, a constant, a confidante and a single point of contact who will also help open many doors and opportunities for young people is potentially transformative.
The early intervention model delivered by ThinkForward is leading the way in this area. Starting the coaching relationship with 13 and 14 year olds, and based permanently and full-time in a single school, they are able to support young people who are at a high risk of dropping out of education, employment and training, to develop the attitudes, mind-sets, and self-efficacy needed to succeed before they reach their often difficult transition to post-16 education and employment.
An effective youth coach is not quite the same as what we have come to think of as a corporate or life coach, although they do have many things in common. They will ask challenging questions, put responsibility back onto their clients for their choices and subsequent consequences, they will support them to unpack complex and sticky issues they are dealing with, help them to decide on goals and to realise the best course of action, but they are potentially so much more as well.
This is an older person in the young person’s life who is not a teacher, parent or social worker, but a caring adult with high standards with whom they can have an enduring relationship.
A coach works closely with their young people to identify their needs, work out how best to meet them, and stands side-by-side with them while they navigate over the many hurdles, intrinsic and extrinsic, towards a stable and successful future. Some will need their metaphorical hand held the whole way, while others may just need some help to be pointed in the right direction.
For ThinkForward the coach is there with the young person for 5 years as they forge and traverse their individual path to further education and eventual employment, delivering a potent and bespoke combination of one-to-one support and targeted workshops, as well as creating social capital and opportunities through the brokerage of world of work experiences and developing business mentoring relationships. In addition to signposting, referring to and liaising with other services that will also support the young person to overcome barriers to their success.
Five years is a long time to develop a meaningful relationship, from the initial rapport building, through to reluctant cooperation and eventually enthusiastic alliance, and for this unique relationship to be at its strongest there should be mutual respect, understanding and perhaps most importantly…trust. A coach must be willing to challenge the young person about their behaviour and the decisions they are making in their life, the coach must have high expectations of their young person, and not except anything less than the young person taking full personal responsibility for their life, their choices and their own future.
Only with trust can this openness and frankness between the coach and the young person become accepted and flourish. Essential ingredients if they are to effectively support the young person on their journey of change; from dis-engagement and low aspirations, through to self-awareness, finding motivation, deciding upon direction, developing skills, securing qualifications and eventually moving into sustainable employment and personal success.
And to make this happen what are we really talking about? Not costly interventions, complex training programmes or multi-faceted projects, just ‘a person’, a single person for those who need them most, ensuring that every young person has at least one reliable, responsible, dedicated, caring and skilled adult in their lives.