A SKILLS and support project for vulnerable and often disadvantaged young people will be rolled out across North Wales.

Aimed at 16 to 25 year olds, the WeMindTheGap WeDiscover programme had a positive impact on participants in Conwy county.

As a result, the scheme will now also be available to applicants who are NEET (not in Education, Employment or Training) in Wrexham, Flintshire, Denbighshire, Gwynedd, and Anglesey.

Run in partnership with Conwy Employment Hub – which oversees the successful Communities for Work, Communities for Work Plus, and PaCE initiatives – it is supported by Conwy County Council and other funders.

Participants praised mentors for changing their lives and giving them the confidence to capitalise on post-pandemic opportunities.

Among them was MJ, a young carer who struggled with mental health issues and admitted to joining WeDiscover for “something to do” having lacked motivation on leaving school.

“I wasn’t doing much besides playing video games and doing art from time to time, though I was losing my passion for it,” they said.

“My sister found the course online and I originally didn’t think I would do it, or maybe go for one day, but I stayed and am so glad I did because it was an incredible experience.”

MJ added: “The WeDiscover team were so supportive, helping me with my artwork and to be honest if it weren’t for them, I’d probably still be stuck in the house

“The mentors were nice and kind and whenever I needed to talk, they were there for me; it’s been an amazing journey and I feel like a completely different person.

“I love art and am very creative so the virtual and in person sessions gave me a boost, so much so that I plan to start selling my artwork and will take it forward as a business.”

As well as access to IT equipment and presentations by guest speakers such as MMA fighter Aaron Aby and a zookeeper from Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay, those taking part enjoyed days out, helped with community events and received prizes for engagement – MJ’s progress and commitment was rewarded with a voucher for art equipment.

WeDiscover programme lead Laura Columbine was delighted with the feedback and pleased they will have a platform to support even more young people across the region when the next cohort joins in September.

“We will now work with local agencies, families, charities and organisations to seek referrals and demonstrate the value of taking this project forward,” she said.

“One of the new partnerships forged in past months was with the Marine Conservation Society, and we will be looking to add more to have a lasting, sustainable effect on the environment, the economy and importantly the futures of the young people involved.”

Libby Duo, Strategic Manager for Conwy Employment Service, added: “To hear what a difference WeDiscover made to the life of MJ and others is so heartening and testament to the hard work and care of everyone involved.

“We now have an opportunity to do even more, targeting other areas of North Wales to make a real, lasting difference after what has been a challenging couple of years.

“We encourage more families and agencies to get in touch because this is a chance to do something special, to help young people take that first step on the path to their future career, to overcome adversity and lay the foundations for a brighter future.”

The scheme has been a major success in Wales and the North West, and since programmes began in 2014 they have changed the lives of up to 250 young people, delivering more than £5.5m in social value and over £2.5m in public savings.

Rachel Clacher CBE, Chair and Founder of WeMindTheGap, said: “We are thrilled to be working with Conwy County Council again in delivering our unique digital programme for underserved young adults.

“The impact of Covid-19 and ongoing restrictions have disproportionately affected our young people. By delivering a programme with love and meaningful opportunities we aim to support young people to transform their own lives and take the next step into the wider world.”

WeDiscover taster sessions will be taking place from September 19, before the programme begins October 3. To sign up for the WeDiscover programme and for more information, email laura@wemindthegap.org.uk or call 0333 939 8818. Visit www.wemindthegap.org.uk and watch a video about WeDiscover here: We Discover | WeMindTheGap

Visit www.conwy.gov.uk/conwyemploymenthub for more on Conwy Employment Hub.