BERNARD MATTHEWS AWARD: Shortlist project faces funding loss

A PIONEERING volunteering project at Great Yarmouth College that has turned young lives around but now faces losing its funding has been shortlisted in the Bernard Matthews Youth Awards 2011.

The VTalent scheme is one of three finalists in the Educational Achiever category in the awards that recognise the achievements of inspirational young people from Norfolk and Suffolk.

Great Yarmouth College was one of just 28 colleges nationwide chosen to pilot VTalent which offers youngsters with poor job prospects – many with limited or no qualifications – a way back into training, mixing study with volunteering.

They spend part of their week volunteering with staff in academic and service teams and the rest studying for qualifications.

Some gain experience with “back room” services like finance, registry and the information centre or the estates team and others volunteer with academic staff in subject areas like media, construction and care.

At the end of the year they achieve a certificate to recognise their volunteering and new skills as well as their academic qualification to boost their employability.

Each student in the first cohort last year made huge personal strides and has gone on to further study or employment after unlocking new confidence and talents.

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But the programme is due to lose its funding next summer and students are campaigning to save it by collecting petitions and a letter writing drive, enlisting the support of Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis in a meeting with him at his surgery in November.

Katie Marden joined the scheme with no qualifications and has now gone on to study bookkeeping and computing as well as becoming a student governor after discovering a passion for involvement in her college.

“Moving around the country ruined my education and I left school with no qualifications.

“VTalent brought me out of my shell and I ended up with an NVQ in business administration as well,” said Katie, 19, of Nottingham Way, Great Yarmouth.