EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Boost your chances; Volunteer and open your mind to new jobs.
A MIDDLESBROUGH woman is using her experience of the Government's New Deal programme to help young Teessiders gain work experience whilst caring for the environment.
Rebecca Stanley, who claimed Jobseeker's Allowance for two years in her early 20s, is using her new role with a Teesside environmental charity to encourage out of work 16 to 25-year-olds to follow in her footsteps and boost their skills and employment chances by volunteering.
Rebecca originally spent six months working for Tees Valley Wildlife Trust in 1999 on a placement as part of the New Deal for Young People programme, arranged for her by staff at Middlesbrough Jobcentre.
As an environmental taskforce trainee she carried out practical work on nature reserves including building bridges and digging ponds, acquiring a passion for conservation that inspired her to study the subject at Durham University.
In 2003 Rebecca gained a degree in environment and development and worked in a number of environmental roles, including at Nature's World in Acklam and Durham Heritage Coast, before rejoining Tees Valley Wildlife Trust in November 2007 as 'Wild Youth' officer.
She now works with groups of 16 to 25-year-olds on nature reserves near the River Tees in Stockton, helping them gain practical skills which the charity then recognises by presenting them with certificates of achievement.
Rebecca said: "It's fantastic that I can now use my personal experiences to help others in a similar situation.
"I'd really encourage young people to try volunteering if they're unemployed - it helps give you an idea of the different types of work out there and you can use your skills and talents in a different way for the benefit of your community.
"I found my time on placement very rewarding. I was able to make a difference to the area I lived in whilst gaining skills and experience that helped me at university and getting a job once I graduated."
There are around 1,800 young people from Teesside participating in New Deal, a package of support to improve young people's chances of finding and keeping a job. This support may include training courses, help with applying for jobs and interviews and work placements with employers or voluntary organisations.
The Wild Wednesdays scheme is part of an England-wide flagship youth volunteering project, delivered by the Wildlife Trusts on behalf of the Veolia Environmental Trust and V, the youth volunteering charity.
Events take place in Teesside every Wednesday and the first Saturday of each month. For more information call 01287 636382 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
SPARKING IDEAS: Rebecca Stanley of Tees Valley Wildlife Trust stands at Maze Park nature reserve, left. She is using her experiences to urge unemployed youngsters to volunteer and gain valuable experience and skills