Check against delivery

Launch of Work to Learn Programme

Address by Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality

David Stanton TD

The Commodore Hotel, Cobh, Co Cork

 29 May 2017


I am delighted to be here today to launch the Work to Learn Programme and those of you who know me will know that I am a strong supporter of these types of programmes.

As most of you might know, the Work to Learn Programme is a Garda Youth Diversion Project (GYDP) based work experience initiative for young people, which provides them with the opportunity to gain important skills and develop as individuals.

The programme exposes participants to the world of work and the skills required to operate effectively in it, through a structured and supported process involving preparation, placement and reflection. It challenges the young person involved to undertake a part-time job with all the responsibilities that that entails.

The programme has two target groups, GYDP participants and the wider community, specifically the business community, which is often the target of youth crime and anti-social behaviour.

The Work to Learn programme provides valuable experience and learning for the young persons involved, which will help them to establish a good work ethic, gain useful skills and to respect others, including their employer. I think we all recognise the positive benefits that a job offers to anyone in terms of a sense of self-worth and value. For these young people in particular, it provides a fantastic opportunity to grow and develop and to earn some money.

The programme also sensitises the business community generally to youth crime prevention but specifically the host employers by actively engaging them in providing a learning environment for the young people who are at risk of involvement in offending behaviour. Employers are supported to become actively involved in the young person’s learning, development and progression through the placement itself and by way of a series of structured assessments of the participating young person’s skills.

The successful operation of the programme is dependent on a level of cross community co-operation that requires GYDPs, youth justice workers, An Garda Síochána and the business community to work together to create opportunities for the young people involved.

The Work to Learn Programme was initially established by Ossory Youth Services in the Compass GYDP in Kilkenny a number of years ago and due to its success is now being extended to six further GYDPs throughout the country, including the ‘Parish’ project here in Cobh. The other projects involved are the Swan project in Dublin city; JETS in Swords, County Dublin; Bridge Youth in Celbridge, County Kildare; Acorn in Edenderry, County Offaly; and Mallow in County Cork.

I understand that there are some representatives and participants from a number of these projects here today, which is great to see. I would like to take this opportunity to commend the community-based organisations that manage these projects for volunteering to avail of this programme. I would particularly like to thank the youth justice workers for their commitment to the programme and making it work for the young people involved.

As you will be aware GYDPs, play a very important role in diverting young people from becoming involved in criminal or anti-social behaviour. The projects offer a wide range of programmes and interventions aimed at, amongst other things, developing the attitudes and behaviour of young people and showing them how they can have positive influence in their life. The Work to Learn initiative is one such programme. I might add from what I have heard and learnt to date in relation to GYDPs that quite often these projects can be life changing for the participants involved.

This programme would not be possible but for the effort, hard work and commitment of all involved. Firstly, I must mention Ossory Youth in County Kilkenny who led the way by establishing the programme back in 2010. Mary Mescal and her team are to be congratulated for playing their part in making this programme the success it is to date and for paving the way for its expansion.

I understand that we have a past participant of the Compass project in Kilkenny, Aaron Kelly, in our midst today. Aaron is an example of both the success of the programme and GYDP in Kilkenny. He is currently studying at the Ormonde College of Further Education and I believe that he is interested in working in the youth justice area or the prison service in the future. Aaron, I wish you the very best of success with your future plans and career.

State Street, a major financial services company with almost 2,500 employees in Ireland, must also be commended for lending their support, both financial and time wise, to the programme from its inception and now committing to its further expansion. It is great to see a large international organisation of this type involving itself in and contributing to a community initiative such as this and I hope it inspires others to do similarly. Shane Doyle from State Street is with us today and will be saying a few words later. 

Matthew Seebach in Youth Work Ireland has worked tirelessly in conjunction with the Work to Learn Advisory Group over the last 8-9 months to coordinate the roll-out of the expansion of the programme to the new locations so thank you Matthew for your commitment and energy in all of this.

Finally, I would like to thank the employers in local communities without whom none of this would be possible. I would like to mention in particular today Noleen O’Sullivan from Monty’s barbers, who have volunteered and signed up to it. You are a vital cog in the wheel of this programme and you and the other employers involved are to be applauded for signing up to the programme and offering these young people an opportunity that will make a real difference in their lives. I hope you will find the programme as rewarding an experience from your perspective as it will be for young people participating in it. I understand that Josh McKevitt, who is a participant on the programme from the ‘Parish’ project, is here today also. Josh has been placed in Monty’s barbers and hopes to take up an apprenticeship as a barber in the near future. Well done Josh.

I am told there are approximately 30 young people currently participating on the programme. I’m truly grateful to all concerned for getting it up and running and I’m happy that the Department of Justice and Equality, through the IYJS, has been able to support the programme through its participation in the Advisory Group and financially. I hope that I will be hearing in the near future about the further expansion of the programme.