A PIONEERING new programme has been launched to improve career opportunities for care experienced young people in Devon.

Devon County Council (DCC) and Exeter College have worked in partnership to develop the PACE (Positive About Care Experienced) programme with the aim of creating a ground-breaking business network dedicated to working with young people who are, or have been, in the care system.

The scheme is designed to help employers feel confident in their ability to support care experienced young people and to commit to working with us and Exeter College to remove barriers that they might face.

Evidence that DCC have gathered suggests that those in the care system are facing significant challenges in finding suitable employment and training across the county.

Last year in Devon, 25 per cent of children in care over the age of 18 and around 35 per cent of care leavers were not engaged in education, employment or training.

Employers who sign up to PACE will be offered regular training days throughout the year, delivered by a team of staff from the County Council and Exeter College. The training covers a wide range of subjects including recruitment, inclusive employment, mentoring, apprenticeships and grants and funding.

Among those who attended the launch event was Jake McClure, from the UK Health Security Agency, who has previously employed a care experienced young person as an apprentice.

Jake said: ‘PACE is such a great project to advocate for care experienced young people.

‘My own experience of employing a care experienced apprentice was beneficial for both parties; he was passionate and a very capable talent; and we were able to support him to progress upwards into the business.’

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Cabinet Member with responsibility for children’s services, said: ‘The great thing is that young people have been fully involved in the development of this training by telling us about their own experiences of entering employment, and the difficulties they’ve faced.

‘We take our role as corporate parent extremely seriously and this new PACE programme reflects that, and it will ensure that our care experienced young people are given the training and employment opportunities they need for a successful future.’