A NEW Christian mentoring scheme will empower disadvantaged young people and teenagers to take their first steps on the career ladder.
Starting Point Reading reaches out to youngsters aged 16 to 25 who are not in education, employment or training (NEETs) - pairing them up with mentors to gain work experience, internships or permanent positions.
The project is run by Christian charity the Mustard Tree Foundation and has received an initial £30,000 cash boost from Reading Borough Council's Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) and Reading Family Church.
Project manager Rachel Green told charity supporters gathering at last Friday's launch in BB's Coffee and Muffins in the Oracle: "There are so many opportunities available to young people in Reading but unfortunately getting your foot on the first rung of the ladder is often the hardest step to make. What we aim to be is a place where young people who would like a job, training or education, can come and be partnered with a mentor who will help them explore their options."
So far 24 mentors have signed up, including Lis Rout who works for pregnancy advice centre Reading Lifeline. She urged more businesses and community groups to get involved and told the audience: "I'm excited about following a young person and encouraging them to look outside of the box and try new things, have a go and learn from the experience."
Three youngsters are already being helped by the scheme and more will be referred from Jobcentre Plus. Thames Water, BG Group, Christian Community Action and Reading4U community radio are among the companies and charities offering placements in everything from construction to catering, plus retail, media and horticulture.
Reading West MP Alok Sharma offered his support as a mentor and stressed the project will help equipped youths with vital skills needed to help the town and the country compete in the globalised world.
Young people and organisations looking to join should contact 0118 956 7000 07864 040 466