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Friday, 21 November 2014

Furness firms urged to give young people a go

BARROW business owners are being urged to create work placements for young people using a scheme which was inspired by a Hong Kong solicitor.

Barrow’s Drop Zone youth club was given a £3,500 boost after lawyer Duncan Jepson watched a re-run of Channel 4’s Secret Millionaire, which featured the project.

Mr Jepson grew up in Yorkshire, but now works as a senior corporate solicitor in Hong Kong.

He founded the not-for-profit organisation Project Share after making a film examining diminishing social mobility on the Chinese south coast.

Mr Jepson was inspired to set up Project Share to empower less advantaged youths living in Hong Kong’s more remote and lower income districts.

Most had never taken the short ferry ride to the bustling island at the centre of Hong Kong’s business hub, despite being able to see the towering skyline from their homes across the harbour.

The scheme has given youngsters opportunities for social and career development by providing experience in workplaces.

Drop Zone featured heavily in the Secret Millionaire show, which was first screened in 2009 and highlighted how the town’s geographical isolation could be an obstacle to career aspirations.

Convinced that Project Share could have the same effect in the UK, Mr Jepson contacted Drop Zone project manager Sue Johnson and visited Barrow in May.

He has given £3,500 to the Barrow pilot, which is still looking for local employers to help provide youths with work experience.

Speaking from Hong Kong, Mr Jepson said: “I thought Barrow was a beautiful town.

“Some areas seemed a bit, as my grandfather used to say, down at the heel, but as Sue said, there seems to be lots of kids up for the challenge of trying to change.

“And in my experience, they will do if someone just spends some time with them and it’s just transferring social skills.”

Mel McAteer, Drop Zone’s Project Share leader, said the scheme was aiming to broaden the horizons of youths with few, if any, academic qualifications.

She said: “They’re coming from a point where they’re like ‘I’m not going to give anyone anything’.

“They might look at potential careers, but discount half of them because they don’t feel they would ever be there and it’s a very small pond they’re fishing in.”

Youths interested in Project Share can attend Drop Zone, in Cornwallis Street, on Wednesdays from 1pm to 3pm or call 01229 812888.

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