WorkingRite, Baillie Gifford’s charity of the year, helps young people take their first steps into the workplace. Dennis Murphy, the charity’s CEO, explains how their impact can last long into the future.
WorkingRite is a charity that offers a mentored work placement programme for the most vulnerable young people across Scotland. They have often left school with little qualifications and are unsure where to go next. With 9.6% of young people unemployed in Scotland between 2019 and 2020, many of the 16-24-year olds that the charity help could have been another statistic. WorkingRite, Baillie Gifford’s charity of the year 2021/2022, turns the futures of these young people around.
The charity, established in 2008, acts as a practical pathway to a job or apprenticeship. They operate a ‘relationship-based model of learning,’ which is designed to inspire young people to succeed. “We used to say we are a youth employment charity but getting an individual a job is just a vehicle. The key is creating a relationship with the young people and building their confidence,” explains Dennis Murphy, CEO of WorkingRite. “We believe every young person deserves the opportunity to prove themselves in the workplace regardless of age, qualifications or experience.”
To give young people this opportunity to learn valuable skills in the workplace, WorkingRite’s Project Co-ordinators match young people across Scotland to small businesses in their local community. The placements last between eight and 26 weeks, across a variety of different sectors including engineering and hairdressing. Throughout their placement, the trainees are guided by a mentor in the workplace and supported by WorkingRite’s coordinators. This support can include additional training to boost their skills and qualifications.
For Dennis and his team, engaging with young people early is important: “If we don’t do this, they leave school and then it can take a while for them to be referred to us. We accept that we can’t do everything, so we partner with other organisations that can help. This may be schools, housing associations or other youth charities. Often young people refer their friends to WorkingRite too, which is brilliant as it demonstrates the value they put on their experience.”
When asked about the most rewarding part of his role, it doesn’t take long for Dennis to answer. “For me, it’s when a young person sends a message or stops me in the street to say thank you. It reminds me how much the opportunity means to them. It can turn a young person’s life around.” This power of connection is something that is evident throughout WorkingRite’s approach: “Our whole organisation is based on relationships at every level, from our funders to our young people and our supporters to the small businesses. During the last year, this has become more important than ever,” enthuses Dennis.
When a young person finishes their placement, the hope is that they’re equipped with the skills to continue to thrive in the workplace. “We keep in touch with those who complete a placement for the year after it comes to an end and offer further guidance and support. 80% of those who complete our programme secure a job, apprenticeship or engage with further education afterwards,” Dennis adds. “At the moment, we are developing a lifelong mentor programme, that will match young people with a mentor as they are finishing their placements. This relationship could last well beyond the 12 months and we hope that it will give the young people a positive influence who will be there to help guide them. This is missing for a lot of our young people and we think this has the power to create a lasting impact.”