Supporting the young and homeless into work

Taz Virdee is the Training Officer for the YMCA in west London. To date, he has referred 141 of his clients to Business in the Community's national programme Ready for Work; he takes us through a normal day.

“I wake up at around 5.30am and catch up on some reading before heading into work. Shifts are always extremely busy – as soon as I arrive I begin ploughing through my to-do list.”

It is not surprising that Taz is as busy as this. Last year alone, 617 young people were supported by the west London YMCA team; they are homeless, vulnerable and extremely isolated. Some face problems of poor health or mental health issues; all suffer from low self-esteem. Taz explains:

“Here at the YMCA we provide all the accommodation, training and support these young people need to get back on their feet and eventually contribute positively to the community.

“In the morning, I run training workshops, one-to-one sessions or catch-up with my team. It’s not easy to give every young person the tailored support they need but without it they can easily become trapped in a life of poverty, exclusion or worse.”

“Morning sessions tend to run into lunch and I grab myself a tuna salad wrap – made by my own hands! In the afternoon, I will be in one-to-one or group sessions, helping the young people find opportunities to become independent. I tell all of the young people who are not currently working, education or training about the Ready for Work programme and refer those who are interested in taking part.”

For many of these young people, the opportunity of a work placement and a reference is essential in getting them into the job market; thanks to the programme, most of the young people who have taken part are now in employment.

- Taz Virdee,
Training Officer, YMCA West London

Taz works closely with the London Ready for Work managers to ensure that his clients get the most out of the opportunity. It helps that he gets on well with Sarah, his main contact in the team:

“Sarah is awesome! One of a kind and a great professional. She inspires our young people.”

“When one of my young people is on the Ready for Work programme, I wake them up, help them with travel and am always there to provide advice or lend an ear. The programme is a key step for the young people to gain valuable life skills, work experience and meet new people.”

Amongst other things, Taz understands the value of job coaches: “It’s useful for our young people to have somebody they can rely on for support when starting work. For many of these young people, the opportunity of a work placement and a reference is essential in getting them into the job market; thanks to the programme, most of the young people who have taken part are now in employment.

“A good day at work would be knowing I had offered my clients a tailored service and have supported them to the best of my ability.”

When asked what he does in the evenings, Taz was adamant that he didn’t have down time; in his words “I never leave work, I work all the time, even in my sleep.”

We do hope that isn’t entirely true, but the young people receiving support from Taz and the YMCA team in west London are certainly very lucky to have them on their side!