Helping youth become job-ready

Pic of 17-year-old Christian, staff at 'Social Foundry' in Kyneton. Photo by Damjan Janevski. 236206_01

By Oliver Lees

A social enterprise in Kyneton has been recognised for its work helping young people find workplace opportunities.

Last month, The Social Foundry was celebrated at the ‘Championing Victorian Industry within Schools’ event.

Since receiving not-for-profit status in 2016, The Social Foundry has seen almost one hundred trainees come through their programs, which are designed to prepare young people for work in hospitality or in a trade.

Co-founder Simon Burnett has lived in Kyneton for seven years and said that after creating an “exhaustive” business plan, The Social Foundry was designed to address specific issues facing youth in regional areas.

“The opportunities for people in regional areas are very slim, our research found there weren’t enough training opportunities,” he said, adding that the hospitality and tradework sectors were the two biggest employers of youth.

“Practical training is the best model, rather than a theoretical framework.

“Learning interpersonal and hands-on skills, that’s the stuff you need to hold a job.”

The Social Foundry now has working relationships with each of the local high schools and community employment services in the area.

Individuals are either referred to The Social Foundry for support and can gain workplace skills in the organisation’s cafe in Kyneton, or as part of a procurement team in trades such as plumbing and carpentry.

Mr Bennett said the charity’s focus is to foster an inclusive environment.

“The most powerful hope in the world is the power of belonging, so at The Social Foundry we believe it doesn’t matter what you do, you will always belong here,” he said.

“We encourage failure that’s moving toward success.”

Macedon MP Mary-Anne Thomas said the work of charity’s like The Social Foundry “has never been more important”.

According to Mr Bennett, 76 per cent of past trainees had moved ‘upstream’, meaning they’d gained experience through employment, further education or volunteering.

He said with the right support, anyone can reach their potential.

“One of our first trainees came in with a range of challenges, but then he began to trust our mentors and our staff and has an apprenticeship at a professional kitchen,” he said.

“Now he often comes back and runs the cafe’s kitchen himself.

“If you had told me that three years ago, I would have laughed at you. It’s really a testament to the program.”