Social enterprise: Spoke of luck for struggling youths

A charity that helps youths in crisis become employable has grown from helping 40 youths eight years ago to working with more than 400 this year.

Dismantle, based in West Perth, was awarded $100,000 from Impact100 WA last year to help set up a new social enterprise – Renew Property Maintenance – to expand its opportunity to engage with youth.

The charity, which started in 2010, initially offers disengaged youths access to the BikeRescue program, where bicycles are used by youth workers as a mechanism for engagement and mentoring.

People in the program learn teamwork and social skills while repairing two bikes – the first bike is donated to a charity and the youth can keep the second one for themselves. However, after three months the program ends.

CEO Pat Ryan says the property maintenance service provides paid employment to BikeRescue participants at the end of the program, giving them another opportunity to boost confidence, skills and the ability to become employable while receiving full support.

With record high youth unemployment in WA, it’s no surprise that there is increasing need for programs that support youths in crisis.

“The kind of employment that we needed was entry level tasks and consistent work and property maintenance was kind of the answer for that,” Ryan says.

“It is things like using a whipper snipper, pushing a lawn mower, sweeping the floor, getting graffiti off the wall, just the kind of tasks that are diverse enough and easy enough for young people that are doing their first job can accomplish.”

As Dismantle receives no government funding and relies on donations, the program will help the organisation be self-sufficient. While Renew is a commercially viable service with repeat clients, Ryan says profits are not high because of the continued level of support offered.

“We can’t betray young people coming through our program. We always have to be 100 per cent available for them, whatever their needs are at all times because that’s the whole purpose of this business, to support young people. If we betray that, we’ve lost sight,” he says.

Ten young people are currently employed at Renew, with 16 youths hired since the program started nine months ago. Youths are hired for three months, with 40 to go through the program each year.

While it’s been operating five days a week for six months, Ryan says Dismantle is seeking more clients to double or triple its current work activities and engage more youth.

Ryan says those in the program find the work tough because it is entry level, repetitive and a lot have never worked before and don’t know what to expect.

“We have to make sure we get the mix right, that we are giving them a real work experience, not a mollycoddled work experience. But at the same time, we are offering them the support they need because of their backgrounds.”

Ultimately, they take pride in having a job, with them sometimes being the first or only person in their families to have paid employment.

Ryan said it’s rewarding to watch youths develop enough skills to confront their own challenges.

“We can’t go to their house and help them re-establish a relationship with their parents if it’s pretty crappy not can we teach them how to read and write,” he says.

“But what we can do is help young people believe in themselves again and from that they’re able to take on their own lives and their own challenges themselves, and watching their strength unfold is rewarding.”

Inspired by the strength and courage of young people who learn to cope despite their heartbreaking stories, Ryan says Dismantle’s vision for the future includes:

  • increasing access to the program to 500 people per year
  • increasing youth employment to 180 hours per week
  • launching BikeRescue in two regional areas within two years.

He says Dismantle’s recipe for success is because the programs are designed to get the young person’s attention, commitment and motivation.

“When a young person is engaged, then you can build a relationship with them. And from that relationship, you can start to affect some sort of change in their decision making,” he says.

“But you have to get engagement first. Because if you don’t get engagement, the rest of it is going to get thrown out the window because you’re never going to see that young person again.”

Dismantle is a proud CCIWA Member. If you have gardening, groundskeeping or property maintenance needs and you are interested in supporting at-risk young people, email [email protected] or find out more about the program here.

Dismantle is supported by CCIWA’s Education Development Fund, which aims to close the gap between what employers expect and what prospective young employees are presenting. Find out more here.

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