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Olympian lifts young people to mark careers milestone.

Team GB Olympian Jenny Tong joined a graduation event celebrating the hard work and success of young people who have been supported by a ground-breaking skills academy.

The Yorkshire-born weightlifter was guest of honour at the ceremony, held at Kirkstall Forge.

The event saw a number of 16 to 24-year-olds become the latest cohort to graduate from the Employability Skills Course, which is run in conjunction with I-Consult Yorkshire, at Kirkstall Forge’s Forging Futures Campus.

Almost 90 young people who were unemployed, or not in school or vocational training have now completed the course, with 56 moving on to apprenticeships, jobs or further education. Some students continue working at the Kirkstall Forge site in roles including catering and maintenance, as well as taking on construction opportunities.

CEG and EN:Able Futures have been working together in partnership to expand the courses and apprenticeship opportunities available at Forging Futures. As well as creating more than 100 career opportunities for young people since its launch, it is estimated that the campus has delivered more than £10.9m in social value since 2017.

The regular Employability Skills Course helps long term unemployed and disengaged people to learn new skills, build confidence and identify routes to training and employment.

CEG and EN:Able Futures also run the separate Professional Apprenticeship Academy, with support from Leeds College of Building. Students from the Academy also spoke at the event about how this programme has also helped shape their futures.

A number of key firms in the city have signed up to support the Professional Apprenticeship Academy, including Cartwright Pickard, Turner and Townsend, Hoare Lea, Faithful and Gould and Arup.

Harris Mehboob, who is doing a Level 3 NVQ in Construction and Built Environment on the Professional Apprenticeship Programme, said: “Right from school I knew I wanted to do something practical with my career. I’ve always had an interest in construction but had a limited understanding of the range of opportunities available in the industry until I started studying at the Forging Futures Campus.

“The structure of the programme means you get to try out lots of different roles with firms and this has really helped me narrow down what I want to do. I spent my first couple of months working on projects around the Kirkstall Forge site and these experiences really helped what I’d learnt in the classroom click. I was helping to create real buildings, which made me feel part of something bigger.”

Ewan Metcalf, Managing Director at I-Consult Yorkshire, a key delivery partner of the Forging Futures Campus, said: “Each student who graduates from the skills course takes away something different with them, with around 70% of them going on to a positive destination. They’ve all come so far since day one and nothing is more rewarding than seeing them thriving and taking the next step on their journey, whether that’s into more training or a full-time job.”

Julie Deeley, Head of Operations at EN:Able Futures, said: “The 10 Apprentices on the Academy cohort will graduate this summer and all of them are going into full-time employment or further higher education, which is fantastic and proves that the Academy provides a real viable alternative career route, where other traditional options might not be suitable.”

Tom Bridges, Leeds Office Leader and UK Cities Advisory Leader at Arup, said: “We couldn’t be more excited and proud to be supporting CEG’s Forging Futures apprenticeship program, which we believe is best in class. This program has a genuine track record of positively changing people’s lives and creating valuable opportunities. Also as a firm, we’ve benefitted from being connected to and working with some of the great people involved in this programme.”

Derek Whitehead, Principal and CEO at Leeds College of Building, added: “We are proud to support the work of the Forging Futures Campus and Kirkstall Forge offers a great local opportunity for students and staff to experience what they talk about in class on a live site. The level of collaboration between CEG and its partners is brilliant and we hope to see the programme going from strength to strength.”

Lucinda Yeadon, Community Liaison Manager at CEG, commented: “The Forging Futures Campus was born out of a desire to provide real opportunities and sustainable pathways to employment for local people in the area.

“As a company, we’ve always been very involved in a number of skills and education programmes around construction, but we felt that Kirkstall Forge offered us a golden opportunity to lead by example to tackle the skills shortages in the sector and at the same time, add real social value to local communities and the wider city.

“We’re very grateful for the support of all our friends and partners who help us to keep delivering these courses which enhance the lives of young people in the Leeds City Region and look forward to continuing this work.”

The Forging Futures Campus is located within the grounds of the £400m Kirkstall Forge development site and provides vocational training, site visits and work experience for students, local people and young people not in education, employment or training.

The educational campus is located next door to the site’s project offices, providing a close association between the students and the team working on the Kirkstall Forge project and offering real opportunities for those on the course to be involved in the development of a live site.

It is expected that the Forging Futures Campus will contribute towards £100m of economic benefit delivered over the course of the delivery project at Kirkstall Forge.

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