In a small village like Corbridge, the right career opportunity can be a hard find. That was true for Amber, who had a passion unfulfilled, until now.
Amber always wanted to work with kids.
Born in Oxford but raised in the North East, Amber Robinson first encountered her village’s local charity – the Corbridge Youth Initiative – at a young age. Looking back, she speaks about “strong bonds” formed with the staff. Bonds that would drive a passion for youth work.
But pursuing a career in youth work wasn’t easy, especially in a village as small as Corbridge. At the age of 17, Amber secured a part-time role as a youth worker at the Corbridge Youth Initiative – that very same charity she got to know as a child. It was a step in the right direction, but over the next 10 years, she would need to balance her part-time charity work with other part-time jobs.
Then, in 2023, the Corbridge Youth Initiative opened a position as project co-ordinator. It felt like the stars had finally aligned, and Amber was more than eager to apply. But there was a problem. Applicants required a Level 6 Youth Work Apprenticeship – a costly, three-year university qualification.
Fortunately, the Corbridge Youth Initiative wanted to help. Chair of trustees, Sean Soulsby, was aware of ISG’s apprenticeship levy pledge, and he applied on Amber’s behalf. For ISG, it’s important to support the development of skills that enable local communities to thrive. It’s important to support aspiring professionals like Amber. The decision was easy.
Funding approved, Amber now balances a university degree with day-to-day responsibilities as a project co-ordinator. Loving every moment, she can’t help looking forward, dreaming of what she can accomplish.
Corbridge isn’t the biggest of villages.
And sometimes it can be uneventful for local children. That’s why the Corbridge Youth Initiative provides local kids with a place to go for recreational and educational activities. Amber remembers her experiences well, having participated herself as a child. Growing up, she admired the youth workers, and her experience fostered a passion for working with children.
But as Amber grew up, it became apparent that following her passion wouldn’t be easy. After all, Corbridge is a small place, and local opportunities are limited. While Amber secured a part-time role with the Corbridge Youth Initiative at the age of 17, she would need to balance charity work with different part-time roles. Amber was waiting on that next step in her career.
But then came an opportunity at the Corbridge Youth Initiative. The role: project co-ordinator, was an ideal vocation. This was Amber’s chance. A job working with kids that could pave the way to a successful career.
She hurriedly created her application. Years of volunteer and part-time work at the charity were more than suitable credentials. The charity knew her well, she knew them well; everything seemed positive, but there was a problem. Applicants required a Level 6 Youth Work Apprenticeship. This is a university-level qualification, which Amber didn’t have. The course – hand in hand with the role – would provide Amber with the means and the skills to establish a career in youth work. Skills that she could use to raise funding, run initiatives, and work towards a leadership role of her own. Understanding what the project co-ordinator role would take, Amber pro-actively secured a place at Sunderland University to acquire the necessary qualification. However, the charity couldn’t fund her education. She would have to pass on the course and the role. Or so it would seem.
A levy, a new role, and a qualification
ISG’s Apprenticeship Levy Pledge was introduced to tackle the UK’s skills shortage – a real skills conundrum – and support small- to medium-sized businesses in the North of England. Through the scheme, ISG hopes to unlock the potential and prosperity of UK communities and create a positive, sustainable legacy. Sean Soulsby, chair of trustees at the Corbridge Youth Initiative, was familiar with the initiative. Wanting to support Amber in achieving her professional youth work qualification, he didn’t hesitate to apply on her behalf. On his decision to apply, Sean comments, “Amber has given so much of her time and dedication to us and the young people we support. We wanted to support her and give something back.” Amber’s application resonated with the ISG team, who approved the funding.
Thanks to the levy, Amber could accept the role of project co-ordinator and attend university. Her course at Sunderland University – one of the country’s first to offer the new Level 6 Youth Work Apprenticeship through the National Youth Agency - provides essential education, preparing her for the career she dreamed of. One of many personal objectives, Amber hopes to gain a greater understanding of funding management. Amber comments, “It was only once I took on the role, did I realise just how difficult funding can be.” Amber isn’t only learning at university; she’s learning on the job. Tackling the new challenge head on, she’s actively exploring a £10,000 funding pool for the Corbridge Youth Initiative.
By attending university and working simultaneously, Amber learns practically and theoretically, giving her a well-rounded understanding and skillset. She’s also meeting new people all the time. Whether it’s chatting with peers from across the UK or learning from experienced tutors, she’s constantly discovering new ideas, concepts, and practices.
She comments, “This has really helped me grow. Without this experience, I wouldn’t be as connected and informed as I am now. I’ve come to know people in other charities, educational institutions, and businesses. Being project co-ordinator and attending university has opened so many doors for me.”
Amber is thriving in her new role. “Every day is different,” she explains. On some days she’s going from university to running allotment sessions with the kids – teaching them about nutrition and nature. On other days, she’s taking the kids on nationwide trips and learning about the history of youth work.
While only a year into her course, she’s looking forward. Amber wants to utilise newfound skills to secure more funding and security for a charity that has given her so much. For her, it’s a career of passion, and it’s only just begun.