Graduates are 'Vtalented'

JOB prospects, confidence and hopes of 15 young people have been boosted by a pioneering programme that has turned their lives around and given them a future.

JOB prospects, confidence and hopes of 15 young people have been boosted by a pioneering programme that has turned their lives around and given them a future.

The first 17 “graduates” of vtalentyear - an innovative project that offers work experience through volunteering alongside their studies with up to �100-a-week reimbursements of expenses - gave emotional testimonials of their own stories of immense personal growth.

The “graduates” were: Katie Marden, Kimberley Storey, Scott Smith, Hannah Lynch, David Hampton, Leigh Smith, Rachel Last, Andrea McGinlay, Mark Powell, Lucy

Collins, Nadine Bromage, Callum Rooney, Daniel Cugullere, Ashleigh Carruthers, Regimantas Puksta, Cherno Bari and Adelaide Goffin.

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Some arrived on the project with no qualifications, some were too shy to speak and others brought backgrounds of issues and problems.

They ranged from students on level one and two courses to a graduate fed up with being unemployed to a school leaver with 9A and B grades at GCSE who aspired to become an accountant.

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After a year of learning new skills and building confidence by volunteering alongside staff across the college in a range of roles, they presented their stories of previously undiscovered talent and potential, self-esteem and future plans to an audience in the Great Yarmouth College theatre.

One already has two job offers, another has had his artwork chosen as the logo of a major neighbourhood project, others are going on to higher level courses and some are choosing vocational courses.

Most caught the volunteering “bug” and are helping through their summer holidays on a community project creating a mural at a Southtown children's park.

Vtalentyear at Great Yarmouth College is the only project of its kind in Norfolk and one of only 28 FE colleges taking part in the pilot across the country.

When former prime minister Gordon Brown visited the college earlier this year, he met the volunteers to find out about the project.

When they finish, successful volunteers can qualify for �1,500 towards further education or training and this summer's “graduates” intend spending their grant on high-level courses, offshore training, door supervisor's qualification, and resources to support their future courses.

Project coordinator Yvonne Gibbs said: “Vtalentyear offers high quality structured volunteering placements for young people in different areas across the campus for them to learn new skills and gain valuable work experience and a qualification.”

“Volunteers, who can fit their hours around a college course, can claim up to �100 a week reimbursement of expenses.”

Some choose to volunteer in the area they study while others are widening their skills in different areas using volunteering as a stepping stone and a “taster” for work experience that interests them.

Great Yarmouth College is recruiting 15 more volunteers for vtalentyear to start in September. Anyone interested in the project should contact Yvonne Gibbs on 01493 419298 or email

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