A woman who has used her experience of unemployment and homelessness to help other young people into work has been shortlisted for the RBS Enterprise award, one of the Prince’s Trust & Samsung Celebrate Success awards in the London region.

Christine Robinson moved into a series of hostels from the age of 17 after it became impossible for her to continue living in the family home with her mother. Despite this, she continued with her education and studied a degree in psychology at Kingston University.

Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme

But after leaving college she struggled to find permanent work until last year , when attending a Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme helped her structure and execute her idea for a social enterprise to help disadvantaged young people into work. 

Opportunity Access works with young people ranging in age from 12 to 30, providing them with the basic information about work that people from more advantaged backgrounds are familiar with.

“We equip and enable young people to go into work, so they can gain and retain a job,” says Robinson. “I looked at the help other organisations provided, and it all seemed to be about CVs and job searches. We teach them much more basic stuff that other people take for granted - about work etiquette and conduct, employment rights and terms.

“We assess whether they need more help in particular areas - they might have a self esteem issue which makes them too shy to operate in a work environment for example and refer them on to relevant programmes - and then we help organise work experience and placements.”

Opportunity Access, which was established in London earlier in 2013, has worked so far with housing associations, local authorities and private companies to provide young people with work experience ranging from three weeks to three months.

Young people are referred to the social enterprise by Job Centres, schools and youth based organisations, and in some cases by themselves.

Robinson believes her troubled teenagehood helped prepare her for her current work. “My teenage years weren’t plain sailing, but there’s always a silver lining. If I hadn’t gone through that I wouldn’t be doing what I am now. I learned a lot of lessons about life,” she says.

“It’s the same with the teenagers we’re working with now. They have so much to offer but they don’t even realise it. Opportunity Access is about empowering these young people so they believe in themselves.”

UK finals

The winners of the London regional awards will be put forward for the chance to take part in the UK finals in 2014. Find out more about the awards on the Prince’s Trust website.

RBS is committed to unlocking, supporting and nurturing entrepreneurial talent through its work in enterprise leadership and by providing enterprise resources. The bank also provides both grant and loan funding.

Find out more at inspiringenterprise.rbs.com

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