a leeds revolution

Forging Futures offers a golden repair for the young people of Leeds

May 14, 2019

Forging Futures offers a golden repair for the young people of Leeds

The Japanese art of Kintsugi is the restoration of broken pottery with the use of lacquer dust or with powdered gold, silver or platinum. It creates a new piece of art that, scars and all, is considered more valuable than the original piece. In relating this to our everyday lives, it demonstrates that we should be proud of our scars because it is those that make us what we are. Also, we should never discard something and dismiss it as worthless, because everything can be repaired, and sometimes the breaks make the end result more precious.

It is a concept that is the fundamental basis of ‘Forging Futures’, a scheme initiated by CEG to expose young people to employment opportunities. In essence it is an introduction to construction skills and real work environments via a 12-week full-time course, with time split between classroom-based, site-based and work placement activities.

Friday 10th May 2019 saw an awards ceremony take place for the latest batch of 16-24-year-olds who have passed through the Forging Futures scheme. At the Kirkstall Forge offices, just a stone’s throw from the Forging Futures campus, a small group of youngsters were rewarded for their efforts in choosing to stand apart from the crowd. They have graduated from the Forging Futures employability course, having decided not to simply accept their fate or the pathway life appeared to have dealt them. 12 young people completed this course, with between 15-20 places available for each programme. All places are usually filled but Forging Futures are always looking for more young people to work with as it is the kind of problem they love to deal with.

(I Consult Managing Director Ewan Metcalf - Photo credit: Rebecca Johnson/CEG) 

Course leader is Ewan Metcalf, managing director of I Consult, who operate the course on behalf of CEG. Ewan spoke earnestly at the event about how people are often written off and discarded, much like a smashed pottery vase that has been dropped on the floor, but that a vehicle like Forging Futures is there to carry out the repair.

The Forging Futures scheme recognises that people develop differently, and some people thrive outside the school environment. And while the aim of the employability course is to get young people into work or onto further training opportunities, those pathways have to be sustainable ones, there has to be a long term benefit and a way to measure and manage that. Currently, Forging Futures can boast a 70% conversion rate of people who pass through the course and end up in full-time employment or on a new training course. The remaining 30% aren’t forgotten either.

I will be speaking with Ewan Metcalf shortly, for a longer blog piece that will examine the work Forging Futures has done to help young people who have fallen out of the system, but for now this awards event was a celebration for the young people involved and a heart-warming exercise in what good, like-minded people can do when they get together and have a determination to make a difference.

Before the latest alumni received their certificates the roomful of attendees gathered at Kirkstall Forge heard from Paul Dodsworth, managing director of Wates Construction, one of the many partnering organisations – including Leeds City Council, Efficiency North and Leeds College of Building – who make the scheme possible.

Paul spoke as a working example of what was possible for the young people attempting now to make their way in the world. Paul was a simple bricklayer from Durham, who hated school and had to start from the bottom. But he thrived in a different environment and has worked his way up through the construction industry and is now responsible for £350million contracts. Paul’s words and experiences resonated as inspiration for what was realistic and achievable for the Forging Futures graduates.

(Forging Futures Employability course graduates. Photo credit - Rebecca Johnson/CEG) 

Six young men were present to collect their certificates, with other graduates not available to attend the event because they had already started full-time employment. Each of the six were asked to address the room, and they subsequently supplied further context to drive home the message of the transformational influence the Forging Futures scheme can have. We heard tales of mental health problems, anxiety issues and the social isolation that comes with being written-off so early in life. And also there was gratitude, to Ewan and the course tutors, and everyone involved, for believing that nobody should be discarded, everybody’s life experiences can be used as a positive and everyone can be repaired.

Forging Futures is soon to be rolled out in South Bank, offering local people in the Holbeck area an opportunity that they really need, and one which can tangibly change their lives and their local environment. The scheme has already undertaken some classes at Slung Low’s ‘The Holbeck’ headquarters, constructing a vertical allotment and giving the course attendees some hands-on construction experience.

The literal translation of the art of ‘Kintsugi’ is ‘golden repair’, and when related to Forging Futures it is a reminder that everything that gets repaired is unique, and everybody’s scars are somehow different, but they are part of the history of what we are and are what makes us precious. Life throws different things at us, but our scars are not something to hide, they are something to display with pride.

For young people feeling like they are already on the scrapheap, taking an opportunity with Forging Futures is the essence of resilience; the first step in taking negativity and using it in a positive way. It is people that change people’s lives, and if you ever feel like you are broken, there are always people out there who can help repair you, and people who can give you the belief that, despite what the system says or what you might have been told by someone claiming authority, you are never truly broken.

(Header image courtesy of CEG/Kirkstall Forge)