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An Evaluation of Career LEAP: A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training An Evaluation of Career LEAP: A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training


Abstract and Figures

An ambitious social justice programme designed to help unemployed young adults develop key psychosocial competencies for finding and sustaining employment during the school-to- work transition, Career LEAP (Local Employment Action Partnership) was developed by Carmel O’Sullivan, School of Education, Trinity College Dublin, and her research team, Jennifer Symonds, School of Education, University College Dublin (UCD) and Jos Akkermans, Department of Management and Organization, School of Business and Economics, VU Amsterdam. The study investigated the area of work-readiness among young unemployed adults (18-24) in the north east inner city of Dublin, many of whom were experiencing significant barriers to employment. Collaborating with East Wall Youth, Swan Youth Service, Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI), and a number of prominent businesses, Career LEAP emerged out of an innovative project between research, community and business partners, funded by the City of Dublin Education and Training Board (CDETB), the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) and a number of local businesses operating in the docklands area of Dublin city centre.
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Career L.E.A.P.
(Local Employment Action Partnership)
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme
for Young Adults Not in
Education, Employment or
Carmel O’Sullivan
Jennifer Symonds
Jos Akkermans
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme
for Young Adults Not in
Education, Employment or
Carmel O’Sullivan
Jennifer Symonds
Jos Akkermans
“It’s the best. It is one of the best programmes that I have
done in my life. It changes your idea about life, it changes your
negative idea about getting a job.” (Young adult participant,
“Yes. It was brilliant. I learned a lot and if I didn’t do it I
wouldn’t be where I am now. I’m out doing things now. I’m
motivated more as well.” (Young adult participant, 2016)
Note on report
This report highlights the key findings of the research study
An Evaluation of Career LEAP: A
Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training.
It is
an abridgment of a more comprehensive and detailed report of the study presented in a
number of published articles.
© Carmel O’Sullivan, Jennifer Symonds, Jos Akkermans, 2018
Published by Temple-na-Sceilg Press
ISBN: 978-0-9557630-3-8
Design by Paula F. Moen
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval
system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording or otherwise, without the prior permission in writing of the copyright holders.
The views expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect
those of the funders or the partner organisations.
Suggested citation
When referencing this document please use the following citation:
O’Sullivan, Carmel, Symonds, Jennifer, and Akkermans, Jos (2018)
An Evaluation of
Career LEAP: A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education,
Employment or Training.
Dublin: Temple-na-Sceilg Press.
About this report
This report is the result of over two years research and consultative work using a partnership
Collaborating with East Wall Youth, Swan Youth Service, Business in the Community Ireland
(BITCI), and a number of prominent businesses, Career LEAP emerged out of an innovative
project between research, community and business partners, funded by the City of Dublin
Education and Training Board (CDETB), the Department of Children and Youth Affairs
(DCYA) and a number of local businesses operating in the docklands area of Dublin city
An ambitious social justice programme designed to help unemployed young adults develop
key psychosocial competencies for finding and sustaining employment during the school-to-
work transition, Career LEAP (Local Employment Action Partnership) was developed by
Carmel O’Sullivan, School of Education, Trinity College Dublin, and her research team,
Jennifer Symonds, School of Education, University College Dublin (UCD) and Jos Akkermans,
Department of Management and Organization, School of Business and Economics, VU
Amsterdam. The study investigated the area of work-readiness among young unemployed
adults (18-24) in the north east inner city of Dublin, many of whom were experiencing
significant barriers to employment.
Career LEAP adopted an approach to research called the DIEACC Framework (Design,
Implement, Evaluate Actions in Community Contexts), developed by Carmel O’Sullivan. In
contrast to other designs more typical of work-readiness evaluation studies, the DIEACC
framework involved the research team in all aspects of the study, from the original
conception and design to implementation and evaluation.
Acknowledgements ............................................................................................................ 1
Introduction ...................................................................................................................... 2
Work-readiness.................................................................................................................. 4
Participant demographic information .................................................................................. 6
Methodology.................................................................................................................... 12
Work-readiness survey results .......................................................................................... 23
Education and employment status twenty months after the programme ended .................. 33
Results from interview data .............................................................................................. 35
Results from stakeholder interviews (business partners) ................................................ 58
Results from stakeholder interviews (community partners) ............................................ 62
Results from interviews with the project manager ......................................................... 67
Results of interviews with mentors supporting work-placement ...................................... 71
Domains of programme quality......................................................................................... 75
Key findings..................................................................................................................... 78
Recommendations and future research in the development of the model ........................... 81
References ...................................................................................................................... 83
Figure 1. Expression of interest ................................................................................ 6
Figure 2. Recruitment ............................................................................................... 7
Figure 3. Nationality ................................................................................................. 7
Figure 4. Accommodation status ............................................................................... 7
Figure 5. Highest level of educational attainment ...................................................... 8
Figure 6. Employment and allowances pre-project ..................................................... 8
Figure 7. Periods of prior work experience ................................................................ 9
Figure 8. Contemporary career competencies (Akkermans et al., 2013) .................... 13
Figure 9-12. Most responsive participants .................................................................... 28
Figure 13-15. Least responsive participants.................................................................... 29
Figure 16. Career competency Hedges’ g .................................................................. 30
Figure 17. Workplace competency Hedges’ g ............................................................ 30
Table 1. Work-readiness competencies ......................................................................... 12
Table 2. Selected pedagogies ....................................................................................... 14
Table 3. Training modules............................................................................................ 15
Table 4. Feasibility study framework ............................................................................ 18
Table 5. Feasibility study methods................................................................................ 18
Table 6. Domains of programme quality ....................................................................... 19
Table 7. Adapted from Eccles Expectancy Value Theory (EEVT) ..................................... 20
Table 8. Development of the work-readiness questionnaire ........................................... 21
Table 9. Feasibility study timeline ................................................................................. 22
Table 10. Analysis questions and calculations ................................................................. 24
Table 11. Measurement validity ..................................................................................... 25
Table 12. Average change for each participant ............................................................... 26
Table 13. Individual profiles of change ........................................................................... 26
Table 14. Group change in career competencies ............................................................. 31
Table 15. Group change in workplace competencies ....................................................... 31
Table 16. Response to Eccles Expectancy Value Theory (EEVT) ....................................... 36
Table 17. Comparison of participants’ pre-training with post-placement results ................ 37
Table 18. Summary of major themes from stakeholder interviews (business partners) ..... 58
Table 19. Summary of major themes from stakeholder interviews (community partners) . 62
Table 20. Ways to improve the organisation of Career LEAP (community perspective) ..... 66
Table 21. Summary of major themes from mentor interviews.......................................... 71
Table 22. Domains of programme quality (post-project) ................................................. 75
Table 23. Results of feasibility study .............................................................................. 76
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
This research would not have been possible without the participation of the young adults,
the business mentors, the community and youth workers, the referral agencies, our business
partners and community stakeholders who were willing to share their experiences of
participating in Career LEAP with us. Their contributions are reflected throughout this report.
We wish to express our gratitude to our funders:
City of Dublin Education and Training Board (CDETB), the main funder of Career
Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DYCA), A&L Goodbody, Diageo, KPMG and
Trinity College Dublin.
We are grateful to the support received from staff in the School of Education, particularly
Valerie Kelly, and the Trinity Research and Innovation Centre, Trinity College Dublin. We
wish to acknowledge the expert advice and assistance of the Advisory and Management
Groups, chaired by Louise Murray (BITCI). Sincere thanks also to the project manager Gavin
Hennessy and the youth employment worker Aimee Harding who worked enthusiastically
with the young people, the community workers, and business partners. We are grateful to
the staff at the following partner organisations who provided invaluable support to the study:
East Wall Youth, Swan Youth Service, Business in the Community Ireland, the CDETB, Dublin
Docklands | Dublin City Council, Inner City Organisations Network (ICON), A&L Goodbody
and Walls Construction.
We wish to thank our business partners for contributing to the development, implementation
and evaluation of Career LEAP:
A&L Goodbody, Accenture, Arnotts, Bank of Ireland, Boots, Central Bank of Ireland,
Club Vitae Gym, Compass Group, Deloitte, Diageo, Dropchef, Eamonn O’Boyle &
Associates, Green Room Bar, KPMG, Liffey Trust, Lolly & Cooks, Marks & Spencer,
Maldron Hotel Parnell Square, Momentum, PWC, Tesco, Transdev, Ulster Bank, Walls
Construction, 3 Ireland.
We particularly wish to acknowledge and thank our project partners: East Wall Youth, Swan
Youth Service and Business in the Community Ireland. We are very grateful for the
assistance of our research team: Dr Ekaterina Kozina, Dr Thomas Hayes, Lesley Conroy,
Alice Owens, Sarah Clarke, Ethel Gartland, Heidi Schoenenberger, Caroline Watchorn and
Stuart Roche.
Finally, a special word of appreciation to Marie O’Reilly, Chairperson of East Wall Youth,
whose passion, dedication and life-long commitment to serving her community and in
particular, the young people of the north east inner city of Dublin, provided the inspiration
for this project. Her vision for change brought people together from across community,
business and academic divides. We are indebted also to Mairéad Mahon, Director of Swan
Youth Service, who shared Marie’s vision and was instrumental in realising this community
led partnership project.
Dr Carmel O’Sullivan
Dr Jennifer Symonds
Dr Jos Akkermans
July 2018
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
The study aimed to explore work-readiness among young adults not in education,
employment or training (NEET) and living in the north east inner city of Dublin.
The collaborating community and business partners’ overall objectives were to:
Enhance young people’s employability skills in the north east inner city of Dublin;
Increase their knowledge and awareness of business in the area;
Increase their confidence in securing employment / gain increased access to
Being prepared to work, and managing a career, is not straightforward for 18-24 year olds.
In the current era, there is an overwhelming range of education and training choices, and
fierce competition for entry-level jobs. Young adults are increasingly expected to deal with
these challenges themselves. Employers in many nations are concerned that young adults,
including university graduates, lack the social skills, higher order thinking skills, and self-
management skills necessary for the workplace. The Career LEAP (Local Employment Action
Partnership) programme was designed to combat these career development and
employability problems, with a focus on unemployed young adults who may lack work
experience and educational qualifications.
In the pilot study we aimed to evaluate a work-readiness programme for young adult
unemployed job seekers, entitled Career LEAP. Its anticipated training outcomes were that
participants would be better able to position themselves in the workforce and become
effective and engaged employees as a result of participating in the programme.
Specifically, the study objectives sought to:
1 Examine how valid the work-readiness measurements were?
2 Explore how much work-readiness changed across the training and work-placement
periods for each participant?
3 Explore how much work-readiness changed across the training and work-placement
periods for the group?
4 Assess how reliable any changes were.
The programme was based on the notion of work-readiness, which is the extent to which
people possess the skills, knowledge and attributes that enable them to be successful in the
workplace (Cabellero & Walker, 2010). The first component of the programme was a 2-
week, part-time training course delivered to the young adults by skilled trainers, comprising
activities designed to enhance specific aspects of work-readiness. This was immediately
followed by a 3-week mentored work-placement conducted by local businesses, where the
young adults could practice the work-readiness skills learned in the training.
The training course was designed to enhance participants’ soft skills integral to work-
readiness, notably:
Career competencies:
career motivation, knowledge of personal qualities including
work skills, self-profiling ability, work exploration and career control.
Higher order thinking skills:
of critical and creative thinking.
Social attitudes and skills
: specifically, workplace civility, valuing diversity,
negotiation, conflict management and leadership.
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
Personal skills:
of self-presentation, self-management and work engagement.
Job-specific skills:
learned on the work-placements.
These were drawn from research on career competencies (Akkermans, Brenninkmeijer,
Huibers & Blonk, 2013), from over 50 studies of employers’ and educators’ perceptions of
what makes a good employee, and from several meta-reviews of those studies, which we
synthesised in a systematic review of the work-readiness literature (Symonds & O’Sullivan,
2017). The aim of the literature review was to analyse the designs and documented
outcomes of major work-readiness programmes in the UK and Ireland, and to explore
whether they offered young people opportunities to develop their work-readiness
competencies and agency. We found that few interventions purposefully connected work-
readiness training to the work-placements that followed. Therefore, in the current study, we
designed the second week of work-readiness training to prepare the young adults for
success in the workplace.
In the literature review we also examined the structure and pedagogy of other work-
readiness programmes. Based on design examples, and addressing gaps in provision, we
designed the Career LEAP training course using the following methods:
1. Deliberate coverage of multiple and major facets of work-readiness, as listed above.
2. Use of the scientific knowledge base (psychology, sociology and educational
research) to extensively research those facets of work-readiness, and translate that
knowledge into concrete learning objectives and activities.
3. Use of established training methods proven to be effective in facilitating motivation
and engagement, and in changing attitudes and behaviour.
4. Use of a developmental, social pedagogy approach to design and deliver the training
in synchrony with participants’ age-related concerns and interests (16 24 year
olds), community environments and social support networks. This is of particular
importance given that we are working with unemployed young job seekers who were
experiencing multiple barriers to employment.
5. Use of creative and arts-based approaches drawn from the drama in education
tradition which prioritises process based enquiry and playful thinking.
The training course was designed so that in each session, participants would:
Uncover new skills through guided awareness and discovery learning.
Practice new skills using active learning methods including role play,
improvisation, case studies, vignettes, activity carousels, games of suspense and
challenge, and collective problem solving.
Reflect on their current career and workplace competencies and plan for change.
Receive positive feedback on their learning through social interaction, enhancing
their self-efficacy beliefs and sense of personal transformation.
Be inoculated against setbacks by tackling generic barriers to education and
employment in a supportive environment. Distancing methods such as role play and
vignettes were used to protect the young adults’ self-esteem.
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
The transition from school to work has always been a major career transition for young
adults, which poses unique challenges and changes, such as finding one’s work identity and
attempting to find one’s first job (Akkermans, Nykänen, & Vuori, 2015). This transition has
only become more complex and challenging for young people given the many changes in
careers that have occurred over the past year, including an increasing need for proactivity
and self-management (Akkermans & Kubasch, 2017), while at the same time facing an
increase in flexible work and rapid (dis)appearance of jobs (Kalleberg & Marsen, 2015). In
all, these changes have caused a situation in which young people need to actively prepare
themselves for the transition into working life, that is: they need to be work-ready.
The notion of work-readiness is used to convey the extent to which people possess the skills,
knowledge and attributes that make them prepared or ready for success in the workplace
(Cabellero & Walker, 2010; O’Neil, Allred & Baker, 2014). This is a separate notion from
college readiness, which refers to the qualities that are typically necessary for achievement
in tertiary education (Camara, 2013). The notion of work-readiness is holistic: it refers to all
facets of the person that enable them to cope with the demands of work. Although there are
too many of these to name, studies of employers’ perceptions conducted across a 40-year
period demonstrate remarkable consistency in the broad areas within which desired for skills
or competencies are listed (ACT Inc. 2000, Jackson, 2010; Jones, 1996; O’Neil et al., 2014).
Around the world, governments, youth services and other charitable agencies have
developed training programmes to help unemployed young adults improve their work-
readiness. These “capacity-building programmes” (Grist & Cheetham, 2011, p. 41) focus on
enhancing young adults’ academic, vocational, personal and social skills, and subsequent
human capital (Hamilton, Hamilton, Bianchi & Bran, 2013) through classroom education and
work-based-learning. Evaluations of those programmes often focus on their instrumental
value; using employment data to indicate successful outcomes for participants. This type of
evaluation may be useful for deciding where to invest national and local funds, but tells us
little about how those programmes impact the personal competencies they are designed to
enhance, through programme design, teaching and learning.
Governments, humanitarian organisations and researchers wishing to learn about this
process, perhaps with the goal of designing new and more effective programmes, will
require knowledge of how work-readiness, methods used to assess it, and programmes
designed to enhance it, connect theoretically and practically. Using a systematic literature
search, we were unable to identify this type of integrated review. Rather, we observed that
the bodies of knowledge on work-readiness and employment support programmes are
reasonably disparate, with only a few publications addressing both issues (e.g. Grist &
Cheetham, 2011). This owes much to the type of research evaluations which are typically
commissioned by stakeholders (such as the US Department of Labor and the United
Kingdom Department of Work and Pensions), as these mainly report on the quality of the
programmes’ design components using young adult, mentor and organiser perceptions, and
consider only a few work-readiness indicators in this process.
In response, we took up the task of providing a synthesis of knowledge on work-readiness
and its enhancement, in order to inform the development of a work-readiness intervention
for unemployed young adults in Dublin, Ireland. In the review we attempted to answer an
integrated set of questions:
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
1. What is work-readiness?
2. How can work-readiness be assessed?
3. How is work-readiness being enhanced in Ireland and the United Kingdom?
4. What is the climate of those programmes?
5. What is the evidence that those programmes enhance work-readiness?
We concluded the review by discussing the links between work-readiness competencies,
assessment and enhancement in Ireland and the UK, comparing this work to that done in
the US, and addressing silences in the evaluation literature regarding programme pedagogy
and the role of parents, families and communities (see Symonds & O’Sullivan, 2017).
The review focused on employment support programmes in Ireland and its closest
neighbour, the United Kingdom (UK). The target group for this review was 18-24-year-old
job seekers in those countries, who are not in employment, education or training. Research
from the UK finds that the personal qualities of those young adults are diverse, as are their
pathways to unemployment (Spielhofer et al., 2009). However, many members of this group
leave education with no school leaving qualifications; as national statistics data from Ireland
indicates (Kelly & McGuiness, 2015). Also they may have other significant and multiple
barriers to employment, such as coming from low-income families, substance abuse, mental
ill health, convictions, health problems, early parenthood, a lack of basic skills, and low levels
of motivation and confidence (Skyblue, 2015; Simmons & Thompson, 2011a). In addition,
their pathways of early school leaving followed by periods of unemployment make for little
or no work experience, and a subsequent lack of the basic job-specific skills such as using
spreadsheets or operating a pressure cleaner, that employers advertising entry level
positions sometimes require.
These features can put this group at the bottom of the ladder of job applicants, in an
increasingly elevated employment arena, where more young adults enter with a tertiary level
educational qualification and there is fierce competition for entry level jobs (Doorley, 2015;
Russell, Simmons & Thompson, 2011b). Developing the requisite basic skills for writing
attractive CVs and making job applications is not necessarily easy for unemployed young
adults, who may have finished school with low levels of literacy and strive to avoid further
study given their previous negative experiences of classroom based learning (Symonds,
Schoon & Salmela-Aro 2016). Furthermore, many have grown up in stressful developmental
contexts such as poverty, making it more difficult for them to develop their ‘soft skills’ such
as self-regulation, self-competency, self-management, self-efficacy and pro-social self-
esteem (Margo, Grant, Longford & Lewis, 2010). In essence, the poles of vulnerable young
adult job seekers and entry-level positions are moving further apart, separated by a large
sea of socially constructed personal deficit, where the unconventional skill sets of some
unemployed young adults are stranded. It is in this setting that we explored the concept of
work-readiness, its assessment, and programmes designed to enhance it.
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
Participant demographic information
1 Application process
Following advertisement, young adults were asked to complete a detailed application form,
followed by an invitation to attend a face-to-face interview with the Career LEAP project
manager during which the applicant’s suitability for the programme was assessed, and the
details and demands of the training, work-placement and research components were
presented and discussed. Applicants were invited to nominate a parent, family member or
good friend who might be willing to attend a meeting with the research team about Career
LEAP. The project manager continued to maintain occasional contact with the applicants
before the programme began as a way of reassuring those who were nervous about starting
the programme, and of reminding others about the start date, location and time. Several
acknowledged that they had fallen out of routines and needed prompting to ensure they
remembered and turned up on time on the start date.
Expression of interest and recruitment
Figure 1.
Expression of interest
Of the 25 who expressed an interest, 3 did not attend the interview (missing multiple
appointments), 2 decided not to take up their place, 2 completed the initial application
form but did not participate owing to other training commitments, a family member’s ill
health, and a lack of confidence. There were expressions of interest from 11 female and
14 male young adults.
Participants were recruited through referral agencies, key workers, youth worker, youth
services, recommendations from friends and walk-in’s.
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
Figure 2.
Background of participants
Figure 3.
18 started the programme in July 2016, presenting predominantly as Irish nationals (13
Irish, 3 Somali, 1 Afghan, 1 Estonian). 12 identified as male and 6 identified as female
A third (n=6) presented as being homeless at the time of the programme, ranging for
between 6 months and up to 3 years.
Figure 4.
Accommodation status
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
There was a diversity of levels of education with only 1 participant having no Junior
Figure 5.
Highest level of educational attainment
All were unemployed with the majority claiming job seekers allowance and participating in
training schemes locally. Several had undertaken a number of training schemes in
succession. Two reported that they were not claiming anything or engaged with any
Figure 6.
Employment and allowances pre-project
In terms of previous work experience, only 3 had up to 2 years experience in the form of
casual short-term contracts, with the majority having less than 3 months work experience,
predominantly in the form of unpaid voluntary placements.
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
Figure 7.
Periods of prior work experience
In summary, data from the participants’ application forms and initial interviews with the
project manager revealed that out of the 18 who started the programme, all reported that
they wanted a job; all reported lacking work experience; 9 noted that their CV was poor; 6
referred to an inadequate level of qualifications as impeding opportunities for finding
employment; 2 identified a lack of networks to help them get a job; 5 identified literacy
problems, mainly reading challenges; 2 declared previous drug addictions; 2 reported having
criminal records, with an additional 2 receiving cautions for under 18 offences; 2 noted that
they had significant medical conditions; in addition, 1 reported having ADD (Attention Deficit
Disorder) and 2 reported having depression.
The project manager recorded significant social and communication skills deficits at
recruitment stage in over a third of participants. These ranged from limited vocabulary use,
going off topic, and short contracted sentences when speaking, to poor eye contact,
fidgeting when seated, and regularly being late for meetings. In addition, inappropriate dress
to attend a meeting was recorded in just less than 20% of cases.
Participants were invited to respond to the following questions in their application forms, and
the following quotations, reported verbatim, are representative of the range of comments
Biggest challenge in finding a job:
“I have no work experience to put on my CV. I have only had part time jobs in the
past but nothing solid” (David).
“I haven’t had much experience, so I think this is a problem. I never get to
interview stage” (Alex).
“As I am an early school-leaver, I find that my gap in education stunts my options
in the working world. I have not completed a leaving nor a junior certificate but I
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
feel I have still the skills and potential to excel in a job, were I given the
opportunity. I have lost confidence in myself which leads me to fail at presenting a
positive image of myself to employers” (Roisin).
“Where i live in” (Paul).
Hopes for your future
“To be successful and happy in a work environment were I can be valued at the
role I play” (Alex).
“I’d like to have my own career in either childcare or lifesaving. I would rather be
working with people than sat behind a desk” (Rachel).
“My ultimate goal would be to be a professional psychiatrist with my own office”
“I see myself having my own to live. I hope to be working. I am still deciding on my
career path as I am interested in many different areas” (Sarah).
Why do you want to participate in this programme?
“The programme design suits my needs. I am interested in work experience. I hope
to gain experience and be on step closer to getting a job” (Sarah).
“I hope to get a job out of this and show my skills” (Matthew).
“To have a good job that I like. I would like to save and travel around the world and
try new things” (James).
“As far as I’m concerned any experience is good experience and when I heard of
this course, I thought that this was deffinetly no exception and I’d gain much
needed experience in all right areas” (Larry).
What skills do you need to be successful in a job?
“Being able to be a team player setting goals, and the ability to work hard” (Jake).
“Open to learn, good communicator and listener, be passionate about the job, be
punctual and responsible with my tasks, being a good team player” (Ali).
“be poilit, respectful, honest, hard working” (Matthew).
“Been able to be a team player, setting over all goals, And the ability to work hard”
Completion rates: Training
15 out of 18 completed the training programme in full (4 female and 11 male
participants). 3 were unable to complete the second week (1 was hospitalised owing to
illness, 1 whose grandmother was admitted to hospital felt unable to continue, and 1
had childcare challenges and family illness to manage).
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
Out of the 15 who completed the training component, 10 had excellent
attendance rates (over 90%); 3 had satisfactory rates (70% - 89%) and 3 had lower
rates of attendance (50%-69%).
Punctuality was excellent for 10, satisfactory for 3, and poor for 2 (regularly late and
occasionally needed to leave early for appointments).
Completion rates: Work-placement
13 out of 15 started work-placement (2 participants, a male and a female, did
interviews immediately after completing the training programme and were offered paid
employment. They took up those positions and did not therefore complete the work-
placement component. Both are still in those positions).
9 out of 13 completed the programme in full (2 female and 7 male participants). 4
experienced unforeseen problems: 1 completed two days of work-placement (had an
accident at home), 1 completed one day (a family member died), 2 left mid-way through
placement (1 has a chronic illness and 1 experienced an accommodation crisis).
With 4 out of 18 (22%) failing to complete the programme for reasons other than gaining
employment (n=2) or documented illness (n=3) as noted above, these data highlight a
number of challenges which these young people experience. These relate to life events and
issues around distal and proximal family resilience which are discussed later in the report.
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
Training programme
1 Work-readiness competencies
In November 2015, the Trinity College Dublin research team began a review of the
international literature on the competencies that young adults needed for success in the
workplace, and programmes for enhancing this ‘work-readiness in unemployed young adults
in Ireland and the United Kingdom (UK) (Symonds & O’Sullivan, 2017). In this review, they
identified 5 core work-readiness competencies (Table 1) of job-specific skills, basic skills,
thinking skills, social skills, personal qualities and career motivation. They also discovered
that major employability programmes tended not to give young adults explicit training in
these competencies, despite the high levels of importance ascribed to them by employers
and higher education staff. Rather, employability programmes focused on ‘job-first’ training
that helped young adults quickly enter the workforce by practicing job-searching skills, CV
writing and being interviewed. This presented a gap - clearly, a programme was needed that
would go beyond the job-first remit and enter the territory of holistic skills building so that
young adults could better manage their careers and flourish in whatever pathway they took,
be this employment or education focused.
Table 1.
Work-readiness competencies
Work-readiness competence
Job-specific skills
Psychological and behavioural skills that enable an
individual to do a specific job, e.g. using spreadsheets,
computer programming, sales techniques.
Basic skills
Literacy, numeracy and information communication
technology skills.
Thinking skills
Critical and creative thinking, metacognition.
Social skills
The ability to work well with others, e.g. interpersonal,
communication and teamwork skills, leadership,
conflict management, and responding appropriately to
people’s instructions and requests.
Personal qualities
Latent psychological qualities of the individual relating
to work, including attitudes towards work and the
workplace (e.g. valuing diversity), tendency for work
engagement, and self-regulation when working.
Career motivation
Drive for developing own career pathway, including
conscious management of career in response to
environmental factors.
Using the framework in Table 1, the research team designed a programme to enhance
young adults’ soft skills, which are often overlooked by employability programmes as we
found in our review. First, it was necessary to more narrowly define those competencies to
design specific activities to enhance them. The research team further investigated each
competency area in the occupational psychology evidence base, to identify strong traditions
of research on specific skills that could be enhanced through training. This search alerted the
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
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Trinity College team to the work of Associate Professor Jos Akkermans from VU Amsterdam
(who was invited to join the research team). Akkermans had already designed and
administered a successful training programme for enhancing psychological career
competencies in high school students, based on his six-domain career competency
framework (Akkermans et al., 2013).
Figure 8
. Contemporary career competencies (Akkermans et al., 2013)
Together, these efforts resulted in the narrowing of those broader work-readiness
competencies to the following two sets which were operationalized in this study:
Career competencies
Reflecting on one’s values, personal strengths and interests, and capacity for
Networking in order to progress one’s career.
Self-profiling to communicate one’s knowledge, abilities and skills to prospective
employers and education providers.
Exploring employment, education and training opportunities.
Controlling one’s career by setting career goals and actively pursuing them.
Workplace competencies
Having positive social attitudes of valuing diversity and being civil in the workplace.
Interacting effectively with others through negotiation, conflict management and
Using higher order thinking skills of thinking critically and creatively.
Maintaining a professional work ethic by working in accordance with workplace
norms, and developing professional identity and behaviours.
Staying actively engaged in work through conscious management of thought and
behaviour while being engaged in work tasks.
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2 Training programme pedagogy
A second major finding of the work-readiness review was that the evaluations and
descriptions of major employability programmes in Ireland and the UK contained no
information on programme pedagogy. In other words, there was no evidence that the
programmes used specific educational theories or strategies to help participants develop new
skills. Rather, the programme reports described how the responsibility for participants’
learning was often outsourced to additional job-specific and basic skills short courses, and to
experiential learning on the work-placements. Possibly, the programme designers did not
have a background nor interest in educational processes, thus overlooked the large body of
evidence on how people learn effectively which could have been incorporated into the
programmes to help the young people. In contrast, using this knowledge was a priority for
us, as our research team was led by a specialist in creative pedagogies (O’Sullivan) and was
also staffed by an educational psychologist (Symonds) and an occupational psychologist
This led us to do further research on training programme pedagogy, with a focus on career
skills programmes designed for young adults, adolescents, and vulnerable young people. We
studied the methods of programmes from the United States, Finland and The Netherlands, to
find a series of techniques that had been demonstrated to be effective by the programme
evaluations. To these we added the approach of social pedagogy: a method popular in
Continental Europe for helping children and young people build their personal capacities
through authentic and meaningful relationships with teachers. This led to our adoption of the
six specific pedagogies detailed in Table 2 below.
Table 2.
Selected pedagogies
Brief description
1. Active learning
Activities that stimulate learning through practical
engagement (e.g. drama, debate, problem solving,
vignettes, simulation games, quizzes,
demonstrations) and that utilise more advanced
cognitive skills that are in the higher levels of
Bloom’s (1956) taxonomy (e.g. prioritising,
2. Social cognitive learning
The process of learning from feedback in the social
environment, which includes making observations of
the self and others, evaluating own performance
and adjusting one’s behaviour accordingly (Bandura,
3. Social pedagogy
Participants are seen as a ‘whole person’ and
trainers seek to develop positive relationships with
participants in order to support them personally,
emotionally, and socially during the training
(Hatton, 2013).
4. Developmental pedagogy
Activities are a good match with the learners’ stage
of biopsychosocial development, to ensure that they
have developmental relevance and purpose which
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
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Brief description
should enhance engagement in learning.
5. Reflection on competencies
Participants are encouraged to reflect on their
competencies to help internalise central messages
and experiences from each session.
6. Inoculation against setbacks
Participants prepare for and practice responding to
challenges that would prevent their competency
development and use. This is based on the stress-
inoculation theories of Meichenbaum (2017).
3 Training programme structure
Each work-readiness competency was painstakingly researched to uncover mechanisms for
altering it through training. A large number of intervention studies were reviewed, and their
results summarised in the Career LEAP programme training manual (O’Sullivan, Symonds &
Akkermans, 2017). Ten 3-hour sessions were designed to enhance the specific competencies
overviewed in Table 2. Each session consisted of activities that as a group covered each of
the programme pedagogies. The programme was ‘through designed’ meaning that the
activities were sequential: building on each other within sessions and on activities done in
prior sessions. Two manuals were developed: one for trainers which contained an
introduction to the work-readiness competencies, programme pedagogies and details for
how the activities in each session were proposed to work; and a workbook for participants.
The sessions were as follows in Table 3 below:
Table 3.
Training modules
Career Competencies
Module Title
Module Content
Career identity and career planning
Me, myself and I
Knowledge of personal skills and CV writing
Network the night away
Personal and career networks
Show them what you got
Self-presentation and interviewing
Making it happen
Career goals and career development opportunities
Workplace Competencies
Module Title
Module Content
How do I feel about you?
Workplace civility and valuing diversity
Working together
Negotiation, conflict management and leadership
Super thought
Critical and creative thinking
Own it like a pro
Professionalism and self-regulation
Finding your groove
Workplace engagement
4 Training programme administration
The 2-week training was led by two members of the research team (O’Sullivan and
Symonds), and supported by two community and youth workers in the role of assistant
trainers. On any given day, one member of the research team led whilst the others provided
discrete support during small group activities or writing tasks as required. The training began
each day at 1.30pm with a sandwich lunch. Beginning the training with lunch was built into
the programme design to support 5 needs:
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
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provide an opportunity for participants to socialise and interact with each other and
with the trainers;
ensure that all participants had food in their bodies to help sustain their
concentration and focus during the subsequent training activities;
allow the trainers to get to know the members of the group collectively and
individually in an informal setting;
provide participants with an opportunity to quietly check in with the project manager
about personal issues impacting their attendance, and about their career interests
(i.e. in what industry they would like to undertake their work-placement, e.g. retail,
construction, catering, administration, facilities, etc); and
facilitate a timely start to the training at 2pm.
Each day was designed to cover the content of a module, which took between 21/2 to 3
hours to cover. A 10-15 minute break was provided mid-way through the afternoon. Based
on evidence from the research in young adult development studies, the training was
scheduled to take place in the afternoons rather than the mornings. This recognised the
importance of adequate sleep for some young people and was planned to optimise
participant attendance rates. Half day sessions were chosen to maximise concentration levels
in recognition of the potential demands that some of the activities might place on
participants. Acknowledging the discouraging experiences of some young people in the NEET
category with timetabling and the structure of formal education and schooling, Career LEAP
was designed to reflect shorter and more intensive bursts of activity. The venue was
similarly chosen to reflect the world of business rather than a school or traditional
educational or youth work setting. This was deemed important in providing participants with
an opportunity to start afresh and engage fully with the training component without carrying
any negative baggage from earlier experiences. Selecting an appropriate venue within the
business world was also regarded as a mechanism to raise the status of the training
programme in the eyes of the young adult participants.
A daily sign-in sheet was available immediately outside of the training room, and participants
with unexcused absences were discretely told by the project manager that anyone with more
than 3 absences would not be able to complete the programme. All participants were
reminded of the importance of letting the project manager know if something unexpected
came up for them.
A key design feature of the Career LEAP partnership programme was the involvement of
prominent local business people during training. Each day during the second week, one or
two members of the business community were invited to join the sessions. They initially
shared their own career journeys to date, noting successes, and barriers and challenges
along the way and how they overcame these. Then they worked alongside the young adults
in small groups during the active training methods, listening, sharing, encouraging and
discussing the tasks as group members. During plenary sessions, they were invited to share
their insights and advice as relevant on the topic under exploration with the whole group,
and to respond to queries and comments from participants. A coteaching approach (Murphy
and Martin, 2015) was adopted in Career LEAP between the trainers and the visiting
business people. It was designed to enrich the experience for participants, trainers and
visiting business people, and involved a sharing of knowledge, practices and skills, sharing
responsibility for participants’ learning and concurrently learning from each other. Reflective
of 21st century attributes such as flexibility, critical thinking and problem solving, imagination
and curiosity, coteaching advances more equal roles in the training room, promoting a less
hierarchical approach to work-readiness education.
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5 Work-placement
Following completion of the training component, participants undertook a 3 week unpaid
work-placement in a local business in a docklands, north inner city or city centre location.
Businesses who had agreed to partner with the programme released staff members to
participate in a half day mentor training programme with the PI of the research team and
lead trainer. This session took place on one of the mornings during the second week of the
young adults’ training programme, and provided an opportunity for the mentors to meet with
the young adults over lunch. It was hoped that participants would be more confident and
comfortable by the second week meeting with members of the local business community,
with whom some of them would be working. It also allowed the mentors to meet with
participants and break down any barriers or preconceived ideas about what these young
people might be like in person.
The mentor training programme explored a number of relevant areas designed to equip
business people with the background knowledge and skills to adequately support and work
with the young adults. Employing an active and creative learning methodology, the
programme included up to date theoretical knowledge and practical activities to explore
areas such as the roles, responsibilities and relationships between a mentor and a mentee;
the different ways in which people learn and acquire knowledge and skills; different forms of
disadvantage (social, economic, educational and linguistic); and specific strategies to support
young people who face significant barriers to entering the workplace. Mentors were awarded
CPD credit from Trinity College Dublin for participating in the programme.
A further feature of the structured Career LEAP model was the opportunity for participants to
visit their work-placement in advance of their official starting date. Accompanied by the
project manager, participants were afforded the opportunity to work out their travel route,
visit the workplace and meet with key personnel in an effort to reduce or remove any
nervousness or anxiety that participants may have about their forthcoming placement.
Recognising that logistical challenges such as ensuring participants know how to get to the
workplace and know what they are required to wear, can become hurdles and stumbling
blocks for some young adults, the programme built these supports into the design of the
model. A limited financial assistance fund was provided to support the purchase of work
clothes and travel passes.
Participants worked reduced hours during the first week, typically half days, increasing their
hours in the second week to 5 or 6, and undertaking full working hours during the third and
final week. This phased approach was designed to ease the transition for participants into a
typical working routine. Those who felt able to undertake a full working day sooner and
requested to do so, were accommodated. Participants maintained daily contact with their
mentor. The Career LEAP project manager contacted them during the first few days of
placement to check in, and thereafter at the end of each week, and if an issue arose.
6 Feasibility study
To investigate whether the programme had any impact on participants, with a view to
establishing its feasibility for successive iterations, the research team designed and carried
out a feasibility study. Kirkpatrick and Kirkpatrick’s (2009) framework for evaluating training
programmes was used to inform the research design. There, we gathered data on the first
three levels of the framework (Table 4):
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Table 4.
Feasibility study framework
Feasibility study focus
Evaluating reaction
What the young adults, mentors and stakeholders
thought and felt about the training and work-
Evaluating learning
What the young adults learned because of their
participation, i.e. whether their work-readiness
competencies improved.
Evaluating behaviour
How the young adults’ behaviour altered because of
their participation, represented by their education and
employment milestones.
The fourth and final of Kirkpatrick and Kirkpatrick’s (2009) levels is evaluating organisational
change. There, the focus is on whether the training has impacted the organisation by
changing participants’ behaviours longer term. We did not include this level as the Career
LEAP participants were unemployed young adults who were not necessarily part of an
organisation following the programme. We used the following methods to evaluate the three
Table 5.
Feasibility study methods
Feasibility study focus
Evaluating reaction
Open-ended survey
of stakeholders
programme delivery.
Semi-structured interviews
with trainers /
post-training / work-placement.
Semi-structured interviews
with young
post-training and post-work-placement.
Evaluating learning
Repeated measures quantitative survey
young adults’ work-readiness competencies
administered pre-training, post-training and post-
Evaluating behaviour
Education and employment data
gathered at the
end of the quantitative survey and from youth
services and employers.
Open-ended interview of stakeholders
An open-ended interview of stakeholders was administered at the end of the Career LEAP
programme (n=18). Stakeholders (i.e. participating businesses, community and youth
services, BITCI) were invited by email to participate in a 20-30 minute face-to-face
interview. Stakeholders were asked to state their name, the name of their organisation, the
date, and their role in the Career LEAP programme. Their reactions to the programme were
then assessed through the following three questions:
1. In your opinion, what were the strengths of the Career LEAP programme?
2. In what ways could Career LEAP have been organised better?
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3. If you were designing a programme like this for young adults, how would you do
things differently, if at all?
Semi-structured interviews with the project manager, assistant trainers and
We began the interviews with the project manager, assistant trainers (n=2) and mentors
(n=9) by asking them to discuss any experience they had to draw on of training and
mentoring young adults before taking part in Career LEAP. We also gathered data on their
age, gender, ethnic group, highest level of education completed to date and current
employment status. Those background characteristic questions were designed based on
question formats freely available from the Irish National Central Statistics Office; aligning our
study with national data.
We then assessed trainers and mentors’ reactions to the programme by asking questions
covering six domains of programme quality identified in a review of evaluations by Yohalem
& Wilson-Ahlstrom (2010). Those domains and example questions from the semi-structured
interview schedule are in Table 6 below:
Table 6.
Domains of programme quality
Example questions
Perceived relationships between the
young adults, and between the young
adults and the trainers / mentors.
Turning to the young adults, what
were their relationships like with other
people in the training/work-placement?
The programme environment
operationalised as resources and
demands such as workbooks, job tools
and environmental safety.
What were your impressions of the
resources that the young adults had to
work with during the training/work-
The engagement of the young adults
and trainers / mentors, defined in
terms of attention and participation.
To what extent were the young adults
actively engaged in the training/work-
How social/behavioural norms, such as
cooperation and civility, were adhered
to in the programme by the young
adults and trainers / mentors.
How well did the young adults
cooperate, and behave responsibly
during the training/work-placement?
Skills building for young adults and
trainers / mentors.
To what extent do you think the
training and the work-placement
helped build the skills the young adults
need for employment?
Routines/structures inherent in the
programme organisation.
Can you please give me your opinion
on how well the training/mentoring
was organised?
Semi-structured interviews with the young adults
We investigated the young adults’ reactions to the programme using the Eccles Expectancy
Value Theory (EEVT) of task motivation and engagement (Eccles et al., 1983; Eccles,
Fredricks & Baay, 2015). There, value is defined as intrinsic value (enjoyment of the
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
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training/ work-placement), utility value (the instrumental usefulness of the training/ work-
placement for helping the person prepare for work), and attainment value (the value of the
training/ work-placement for developing participant’s individual skills useful for working or
finding work). Cost refers to the perceived drawbacks of attending the training/work-
To begin, the young adults were thanked for their time in being interviewed, and were
reassured that their answers were anonymous and that they were in the process of helping
others doing similar programmes in the future. The interviewers also advised them to take
their time to answer each question and answer honestly. They were then asked a short
series of questions on task value (Table 7), referring in the first interview to the training
component and in the second interview to the work-placement.
Table 7.
Adapted from Eccles Expectancy Value Theory (EEVT)
Example questions
Intrinsic value
What things did you most enjoy about
the training?
Utility value
How useful was the training for helping
you with your career planning?
Attainment value
How important was the training to
you? Why do you say that?
Were there any setbacks of attending
the training? If so, can you please
describe some of these?
Interview data were audio recorded, transcribed, manually coded and analysed using
qualitative thematic, content and discourse analyses (Braun and Clarke, 2006; Cohen,
Manion and Morrison, 2017). Two members of the research team established a coding rubric
by iteratively coding a set of participant responses. Then each researcher used the rubric to
independently code a subset of responses. To establish coding reliability the responses were
compared and achieved a consensus estimate of over 90%. One researcher used the rubric
to code the remaining interviews. Individual profiles were developed using excel to track and
record each participant’s data through recruitment, pre-training, post-training, post-
placement and follow up stages. Emerging themes drawn from the domains of programme
quality and Eccles Expectancy Value Theory are reported in the qualitative results section.
Pseudonyms are used to protect participants’ identities. This study was conducted in
accordance with the ethical guidelines in Trinity College Dublin for working with vulnerable
youth, and received ethical approval from the Ethics Committee in the School of Education,
Trinity College.
Quantitative survey of young adults’ work-readiness competencies
The second level of Kirkpatrick and Kirkpatrick’s (2009) framework is change in learning
occurring because of the training. Unlike many other employability programmes (Symonds &
O’Sullivan, 2017) Career LEAP targeted a specific set of work-readiness competencies
prioritised by employers and important for unemployed young adults, with a focus on
transferrable soft skills in the training and work-placements, and additional job-specific skills
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
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in the work-placements. Our measure of whether the programme had affected the young
adults’ work-readiness was similarly targeted, so that we could identify chance occurring in
the domains that the programme was designed to enhance.
This required us to develop a novel measure of work-readiness, based on freely available
measures published in the academic, peer reviewed literature. It was not possible for us to
evaluate this measure statistically as we only administered it to 18 participants in the first
instance, with 11 giving data across all 3 waves. However, our results demonstrated that
there was very little variance around the mean values for each domain (standard deviations
were small) at each time point. Also, there were observably different patterns in the growth
of each domain (change in mean values) across time. In other words, most domains
developed in unique manners to each other across the programme, and the development of
those domains was relatively consistent across the participants, signalling that the measure
was reasonably valid.
We assessed six domains of work-readiness, matching with the targets of the training
programme. Table 8 below gives details on those domains and the original measures we
adapted questions from. The item wording from those measures was altered in some cases
to suit the young adults’ culture and potential literacy level, and the scoring was revised to a
consistent 5-point scale so that the items had the same anchors and measurement level.
This only impacted some items, as most original measures used a 5-point scale.
Table 8.
Development of the work-readiness questionnaire
Example item
The Career
Reflection on
Reflection on
Work exploration
Career control
I can clearly see
what my work
interests are
Huibers & Blonk,
The Career
Ambition Scale
I have set high goals
for my career
Dikkers, van
Marloes &
Vinkenburg, 2010
Motivation for
I am actively job
Rose, Perks, Fidan
& Hurst, 2010
Incivility Scale
It is okay to
sometimes ignore or
exclude people at
Cortina, Magley,
Williams &
Langhout, 2001
The Workplace
Diversity Survey
I feel positively
about working with
people who are
different to me
De Meuse &
Hostager, 2001
The Dutch Test for
Conflict Handling
If I were to disagree
with someone at
work, I would try to
De Dreu, Evers,
Beersma, Kluwer &
Nauta, 2001
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
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Example item
find a solution that
suited both people
The Leadership
Skill Inventory
I can lead a
Townsend &
Carter, 1983
The Attitudes
Toward Thinking
and Learning
Survey (ATTLS)
Separate knowing
When I am thinking
about something, I
consider all of the
Galotti, McVicker
Clinchy, Ainsworth,
Lavin & Mansfield,
Honour & integrity
When working I
follow through with
my responsibilities
Chishold, Cobb,
Duke, McDuffie &
Kennedy, 2006
Utrecht Work
Engagement Scale
I can become
immersed in my
Schaufeli &
Bakker, 2003
Feasibility study timeline
The feasibility study was carried out across the Career LEAP programme, starting with
assessing the young adults’ work-readiness qualities at baseline (before training) and ending
with a final assessment of work-readiness and interviews with young adults, trainers and
mentors. A useful part of the design was that we assessed work-readiness before and after
the training and after work-placement, enabling us to later compare any changes in work-
readiness that occurred in relation to the training, versus the work-placement. A simplified
timeline is below (Table 9).
Table 9.
Feasibility study timeline
Career LEAP
Feasibility study
Work-readiness questionnaire
Young adult interviews
Trainer interviews
Mentor interviews
Stakeholder interviews
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
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Work-readiness survey results
Participants and attrition
The survey was administered pre-training (Wave 1: W1), post-training (Wave 2: W2) and
post-work-placement (Wave 3: W3). 18 young adult participants filled in the pre-training
survey. 3 then dropped out of the research due to individual circumstances including relative
illness, personal hospitalisation and complications with child care. 15 participants completed
the post-training survey, then another 4 dropped out again due to individual circumstances
including not completing the work-placement. 11 participants completed the post-training
survey, and we had data on those participants from every wave. The results reported here
are based on those 11 participants (9 plus the 2 who secured jobs immediately after
completing the training).
The group of participants were recruited with a view to including every participant who met
the inclusion criteria for the programme (e.g. unemployed, lived in the north east inner city)
up to the number of participants that the programme could accommodate. Given that this
group was not selected to represent a larger population (i.e. they were not intended to be a
sample of a larger group) we refer to them as ‘the group’ or as ‘the young adults’ rather
than as the ‘sample’. Accordingly, the results of the work-readiness survey are ideographic
(representing our group alone) rather than nomothetic (representative of what might occur
in a larger population).
Analysis plan
Because the survey results were ideographic, we did not examine the development of work-
readiness with inferential statistics, as these are designed to test how well the results for a
sample can be reliably generalised to a larger population. An example of inferential statistics
is the Students’ t-test of mean differences, which generates a standardised estimate of the
size of the difference between means (the t statistic) and the reliability of this estimate
across multiple potential samples (the significance test of probability:
). Using a statistic like
a t-test assumes that we are checking to see how well the findings in our sample can be
generalised to a larger population which the sample represents.
However, doing this with a non-representative sample, like the one we have here, is what
Gorard (2014 p. 400) calls a “misplaced emphasis on random errors”. Certainly, researchers
do not need to use inferential statistics to analyse numerical data. There are more fitting
ways to assess whether change has occurred for non-representative samples. The most
important thing to know about the data is whether any change in scores across time is a
valid representation of what is actually occurring within and across the participants in the
group. Secondarily, it is useful to produce some type of standardised estimate so that
readers can easily compare amounts of change between times and persons.
Accordingly, we used appropriate non-parametric calculations to indicate these features of
the data. Table 10 lists our questions for the quantitative analysis and summarises how we
answered them.
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
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Table 10.
Analysis questions and calculations
Research question
Analysis methods
How valid were the work-
readiness measurements?
a. Calculation of mean scores (M) for each work-readiness
domain, for individual participants, by averaging their
responses to all the items within each domain (e.g.
leadership skills).
b. Calculation of each participant’s standard deviations
(SD) for each domain, which is the spread of scores for
each item around the mean value. This tells us how
‘tightly’ participants’ responses fitted into each domain.
c. Assessment of the percentage of participants that had
a SD within each domain that was larger than 1 unit of
measurement on the items’ scales (e.g. moving from 1
completely disagree
to 2 =
disagree a little
), and 1.5
units. This yielded 2 levels of validity (good fit,
reasonable fit). SDMs larger than 1.5 were considered
to represent a poor fit of items within domains.
d. Item analysis of any domains with under 60%
reasonable fit.
e. Calculation of the mean SD within each domain across
participants (SDM). SDMs larger than 1.5 were
considered to represent a poor fit of items within
How much did work-
readiness change across
the training and work-
placement periods for
each participant?
a. Comparison of each participant’s domain scores, and
overall career and workplace competencies scores,
across the two time periods:
Pre-training to post-training (W1 W2)
Post-training to post-work-placement (W2 W3)
b. Pattern analysis of which participants changed the
most and the least overall for career and workplace
How much did work-
readiness change across
the training and work-
placement periods for the
a. Comparison of the average domain scores within the
group across the two time periods:
Pre-training to post-training (W1 W2)
Post-training to post-work-placement (W2 W3)
b. Calculation of Hodges g effect size to provide a
standardised version of the change within each
How reliable was this
a. Calculation of the Number Needed to Disturb (NNTD)
(Gorard & Gorard, 2016) which generates the number
of participants that would have to be randomly added
to the group to make the effect disappear. The NNTD
is based on the effect size and on the mean differences
and is a measure of the reliability of the mean
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
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1 How valid were the work-readiness measurements?
Table 11.
Measurement validity
% <
% <
% <
The validity analysis revealed that all domains had reasonable validity. The average variation
of participants scores within each domain was under 1.5 points on the measured scale of 1
5, as indicated by the SDM.
Participants scores within each domain grew more consistent across time, as demonstrated
by the increasing percentage of participants whose item responses varied on average by less
than 1.5 points within that domain.
The domains that were least valid were professionalism at W1 and civility at W3. Item
analysis revealed that of the 5 professionalism items, one item was creating this variation at
W1. Participants’ scores on the item
when working it is wrong to cheat to achieve higher
rewards (for example, grades or money)
were polarised, with scores being either 1
(disagreeing) or 5 (agreeing). Further analysis of this item found that 3 of the 4 participants
who agreed with that item changed to disagreement after the training. The W3 civility item
analysis found that of the 4 items, 2 were consistent but 2 were varied (
At work, it is okay to
not pay attention to other people’s statements or opinions, It is okay to sometimes ignore or
exclude people at work
), with participants who had previously disagreed with these
statements developing less certain views after the work-placement.
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2 How much did work-readiness change across the training and work-
placement periods for each participant?
Table 12.
Average change for each participant
To identify change for individuals, we first calculated the mean and standard deviation for
each domain at each wave. Those tables, which incidentally provide readers with all the
necessary data for replication of these results and secondary analysis, are available from the
research team. In Table 12 we report the global change within the career and work-place
competencies, occurring across the training period (between W1 and W2) and the work-
placement period (between W2 and W3).
The change within these broader domains across both the training or work-placement
periods was relatively small for each participant. No participant changed more than .6 of the
5-point scale on average. However, across the group some of these changes presented as
large effects as we discuss in a later section.
Table 13.
Individual profiles of change
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We then used these overall changes for each participant, to identify whether there were any
patterns of response to the training and work-placement (Table 13). In that table, we have
emboldened participants’ names who reported the most positive change in response to the
training and work-placements (banded by the top 3 participants listed) and the most stable
or least positive change (banded by the bottom 3 participants listed).
The pattern analysis revealed that Roisin, Alisha and Sia (all female), and Alex, were most
responsive to the programme. In contrast, Jaydan, David and Ali (all male) had the most
negative change or were least responsive. These results are depicted visually for those
participants’ full set of career and workplace competencies, in the following spider diagrams.
The patterns of change are unique to each participant. For example, Roisin reported
increases across the board in her career and workplace competencies. Alisha reported gains
in career competence, but only increases in leadership and professionalism within the 5
workplace domains. Alex and Sia reported quite stable workplace competencies, but had
large increases in career competencies following the training. In contrast, Ali scored highly
on all career and workplace domains and showed little change in these across time. Both
Jaydan and David only altered in a few competencies, hence their stability compared to the
rest of the group.
Most responsive participants
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
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Figure 9-12.
Most responsive participants
Least responsive / most negative change participants
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Figure 13-15.
Least responsive participants
3 How much did work-readiness change across the training and work-
placement periods for the group?
The following two figures demonstrate the extent to which the career and workplace
competencies changed for the group within each domain, across the training and placement
periods. In those figures, change is represented by the effect size Hodges g. The tables
following the figures give details on the mean values, standard deviations, effect sizes and
the sensitivity statistic (NNTD) which we will report on in the final section.
The results for the group were that career competencies changed far more than workplace
competencies, with average effects rising from .3 (a small effect) up to 1.7 (a large effect).
In contrast, the workplace competency effects were all below .8 and hovered around the .3
effect size.
Both career and workplace competencies altered more following the training than the work-
placement. There are many possibilities for why this might have been the case. One such
possibility is that the participants ‘maximised’ their change during the training, leaving little
room for the work-placement to add competency growth. Another is that the work-
placements were less impactful than the training, on the specific competencies studied here.
This may have something to do with the training being specifically designed to impact the
measured competencies. It is possible that there were many competencies developed during
the work-placements that were unmeasured.
The career competencies of exploration, control and ambition, and the workplace
competencies of civility and valuing diversity, all declined after the work-placement. We
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
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might expect a decline in exploration, as several participants found work by the third wave
of measurement, or had continued in their placements. The declines in control and ambition
were minute. However, the declines in civility and valuing diversity after the work-placement
were more notable. As discussed earlier in our validity analysis, participants became less
certain whether it was wrong to ignore, exclude and not pay attention to other people at
work, after the work-placement. In comparison in real terms, the shift for valuing diversity
was small, with 2 of the 11 participants shifting from completely agree, to agree a little, that
they felt positively about working with people who were different to them.
Figure 16.
Career competency Hedges g
Figure 17.
Workplace competency Hedges g
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
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Table 14.
Group change in career competencies
Table 15.
Group change in workplace competencies
4 How reliable was this change?
For all of the findings where there was an average change of above a small effect size
(> .3), the number of counterfactual cases needed to be added to the group to make this
effect size disappear was between 3 and 7. Another way of viewing this, given that the
group had 11 participants, was that if the group were 30 70% larger, this could have
impacted the results. However, it is the case that the measurements were reasonably valid
for each participant and for the group, as we demonstrated through our validity analysis. It
is also visible that the changes for all the participants tended to point in the same direction
towards a notable increase in career competencies and a small increase in workplace
competencies, with most change occurring after the training. Therefore these findings are a
good representation of what happened for this group of participants, but are not meant to
be generalised to other cohorts.
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In Summary
Career competencies, ambition and searching for work
Of the participants with complete data (3 waves), there was a consistent trend of
improvement in career competencies (motives, qualities, networking, profiling and
control) and in addition career ambition. Only career exploration was stable across time.
There was some evidence for growth in career competencies being more pronounced
after the training, in comparison to after the work-placement where levels remained
fairly stable across time. Searching for work decreased across time, potentially as
participants were supported in gaining work experience across the programme, and felt
less need to actively look for work.
Workplace competencies
Regarding workplace competencies, participants' attitudes towards diversity were stable
across time. Although they felt more vigorous, ready to become absorbed in work, and
able to manage workplace conflict after training, they were less confident in these areas
following the work placement and in addition felt less dedicated towards working. This
evidences a decrease in the three domains of workplace engagement (dedication,
absorption and vigour) after the work placement. Participants' confidence to lead others,
professional attitudes towards work, and reports of thinking critically and creatively
increased after training, and held stable after the work placement.
Like the career competencies, the workplace competencies seem to have increased more
after the training. The stability and in some cases declines of workplace competencies after
the work placement points towards the qualitative data for possible explanation in the
following section. It is possible that participants' workplace ideals and interest were strongly
encouraged by the training, but then after experiencing daily life in the workplace they
moved towards more realistic thinking, as their scores on workplace competencies were
already high before training.
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Education and employment status twenty months
after the programme ended
Follow-up data were gathered at 6, 12, 15 and 20 monthly intervals after the programme
ended by the Career LEAP Project Manager and youth employment worker who maintained
contact with participants. This included those who had completed the full programme, those
who had not completed work-placement, and those who had not completed the training
Completed the full programme (n=11)
Of those who completed the programme (and for whom we had full waves of data):
5 are in full time education (4 of whom are also working part time whilst
studying: 3 in the same company they undertook placement with),
1 is undertaking an apprenticeship
5 are working full time
Of those in full time education, 2 started level 7 degrees, 3 are doing Level 5
and 6 FETAC programmes and expressed an interest in continuing to level 7 in
the future.
Of those working full time, 4 are still with the same companies: 1 has been promoted to
a supervisor in a telecommunications company, 1 is working in the catering
industry, 1 in retail who was promoted to floor supervisor after a year and then
moved to be a supervisor in a new retail company, 1 in construction, and 1 in a
The two participants who secured employment immediately after training attributed their
success to the training component:
“Jaydan completed the two weeks training which gave him the confidence to get
back in touch with a recruiter he had previous contact with. From this he was
offered an interview and got the job. Jaydan attributes him succeeding in getting
the job to the confidence and skills he gained during the training, in particular the
networking elements”. (Project Manager)
“Alisha completed the full two weeks training, during which time she undertook
her first ever interview, which she received coaching from a participating business
mentor. She was shocked and surprised that she got the job and started after the
training. Alisha has kept in contact and is doing well in employment. She
attributes her job success to the training and support she received from Career
LEAP. She hopes to continue her studies to become a nurse in the future.”
(Project Manager)
Did not complete work-placement (n=4)
Of those who did not complete placement but completed the training component:
2 are working full time (1 as a chef in a catering company, and 1 in the waste
and recycling industry having completed a Safe Pass course after the
training both want to do Career LEAP again)
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1 is working part time and doing a training course (working in a bakery,
and indicated that “he loves it” and wants to do Career LEAP again to rebuild
confidence and skills)
1 is volunteering in a charity shop and is eager to apply again to complete
Career LEAP (has a chronic medical condition that impacts on ability to work)
Did not complete training (n=3)
Of those who did not complete the training component:
1 is attending Youthreach and asked to come back to finish Career LEAP
(attended over 70% but child care issues proved an insurmountable hurdle)
No contact with 2 (changed contact details and have moved).
Accommodation issues
6 were homeless when they started the programme
2 remain homeless: 1 is working full time, and 1 is in education; both are
continuing to engage with the Career LEAP Youth Employment Worker.
Another participant attributed her ability to secure rented accommodation to getting a job:
“Sia completed the full programme and was offered fulltime work as a Treasury
Support Admin at Bank of Ireland. She has also been able to find rented
accommodation due to having a reference from an employer. Sia expressed her
gratitude at how much the programme has helped her and finding her her ‘dream
job’. She spent four years looking for work prior to the programme attending
various trainings and not having any luck” (Project Manager).
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Results from interview data
1 Overview of participants’ interview data
This section presents interview data provided by the young adult participants across three
data collection points during the study. As some of the pre-training data has been presented
in the demographic section already, attention is primarily paid to what the young adults had
to say post-training and post-placement. Providing space to their voices, opinions and
experiences as self-reported through repeated qualitative interviews is prioritised here. In
the following sections, we illustrate participants’ perceived changes using participant
quotations to act as a lens through which to explore their experience and participation in the
Career LEAP programme. Immediately below, we return to Eccles Expectancy Value Theory
(EEVT) of task motivation and engagement (Eccles et al., 1983; Eccles, Fredricks & Baay,
2015) to consider the overall impact of the programme on this group of young adults.
Eccles Expectancy Value Theory
Using Expectancy Value Theory within a qualitative educational framework, we investigated
the young adults’ reactions to the programme. According to this theory, learners’
achievements and choices are influenced by their expectations of whether they are likely to
succeed in a task, and how useful, important or enjoyable they perceive that task to be
(Cooper et al., 2017). These two factors in turn can determine their consequent levels of
engagement, continuing interest and achievement outcomes. If a person believes they can
succeed, and expects to do well in something, it tends to impact positively on their actual
performance (Domenech-Betoret, 2017). According to Eccles et al. (1983) the value learners
place on a task impacts their motivation, interest and persistence in completing it. However,
other factors such as environmental and demographic characteristics, parent and family
beliefs, previous experiences, negative stereotypes, and how you perceive others’ behaviours
and beliefs can indirectly affect achievement outcomes (Eccles and Wigfield, 2002;
Lykkegaard and Ulriksen, 2016).
We found that participants were highly motivated at the start of the programme. Applying
Eccles’ concept of subjective task values (Wigfield and Eccles, 2000), this group of young
adults were confident in responding to the question of ‘Do I want to do this programme, and
why?’. The large majority (16 out of 18 / 89%) expected to complete the programme and
were looking forward to undertaking a structured work-placement. Belief that the
programme would be manageable for them was quickly established over the course of the
first two days (Assistant trainer, research journal). At the end of the training component,
most participants (13 out of 15 / 87%) similarly expressed high expectations about their
work-placement and a belief that they were appropriately prepared to succeed. We found
that this group of Career LEAP participants found value in the programme. They showed
positive changes in the components of expectancy value theory and reported high levels of
engagement in the programme post-placement (see Table 16). We found little negative
consequence in terms of the ‘cost’ of their participation in Career LEAP. No unfavourable
psychosocial consequences such as fear or anxiety were reported as a result of participation.
Similarly, there were no reports of adverse effects on their time, financial demands or missed
opportunities while undertaking the programme.
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Table 16.
Response to Eccles Expectancy Value Theory (EEVT)
Intrinsic value
Interest in and enjoyment of
the training and work-
placement components of
the programme
We found evidence of high intrinsic value the programme
was rated highly by all participants, including those who did
not complete all elements. Of those who didn’t complete, all
except 2 with whom contact was lost, expressed a desire to re-
do the programme at the next available opportunity, and
regret that external circumstances impeded their ability to
complete it on this occasion.
While a large majority of participants were eager to undertake
the programme in the singular hope of finding a job, they
reported that they did not
to be interested or to enjoy
the training component. Similarly, a large minority perceived
previous work-placements to be unstructured and unfulfilling,
leading to no further opportunities. 100% reported being
interested in the content and in particular, enjoying the
pedagogy and structure.
Utility value
Usefulness and relevance of
the training and work-
placement experience in
helping with career planning
Participants self-reported a strong correlation between the
knowledge, skills and experiences encountered on the
programme, and their current and future short and longer-
term career goals. Their ability to recall, name and identify
specific elements of the modules and indicate how various
skills and attributes were useful to them during work-
placement, was interpreted as evidence of a high utility value
in the Career LEAP programme.
Attainment value
Importance of the training
and work-placement for
personal and professional
identity and sense of self
We found salient changes in aspects of the participants’
personal and professional attributes, and how they perceived
themselves at programme end. These were demonstrated
through changes in language use, increased confidence and
self-efficacy, ability to network and engage with colleagues
and peers, enhanced understanding of social relations,
improved awareness of diversity, and an articulated vision of
their future selves in relation to careers and quality of life.
Too many demands on time,
overly challenging, loss of
other opportunities, stressful
We found no reported negative consequences associated with
participating in Career LEAP. However, for those who did not
finish the full programme, external factors impeded their
progress and ability to complete. These included child care,
family care, and health problems, including minor addiction
issues for 3 participants which was not identified at
recruitment stage. The evidence would appear to support that
these factors were not as a consequence of participation in the
All four domains were positively valued by participants, and somewhat unexpectedly, they
were valued equally. However, while the evidence suggests that the value of the overall
programme resides across the reciprocal relationship between these different dimensions,
there was a marginally higher value attributed to the domain of attainment value. Here
participants’ sense of self-efficacy and self-esteem and their belief in the opening up of
future career pathways at programme end was slightly more strongly perceived than for the
other domains.
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The area of parental and familial support was mentioned earlier in this report, and is
discussed in the review of literature underpinning this study (Symonds & O’Sullivan, 2017).
Parental expectancies are a key feature of Eccles Expectancy Value Theory (Partridge et al.,
2013) and it is expected that parents place greater value in one domain over the others in
accordance with their own belief systems and personal experiences. Consequently, parents
or close family members provide different levels of encouragement and opportunity based on
what they believe their child’s aptitudes to be. These beliefs are usually reflected in the
feedback provided to their children in relation to expectancies, values and gender-
stereotypes. Consistent with models of socialisation, the child will typically adopt their
parent(s)’ or close family members’ expectancies about their abilities in an area, and their
parent(s)’ values about the importance of an activity. However, Eccles’ theory is also
consistent with motivational theories which emphasise self-efficacy (Partridge et al., 2013;
Bandura, 1986, 1989) in that if children believe they are highly competent in an area, they
are more likely to be motivated to achieve in that area. But the evidence is well supported in
that what a parent expects and believes, has an impact on their child’s own perception of
their competencies and their expectancies of success.
The results in this study are silent in relation to the involvement or impact of parental
support around career decisions for this group, and perhaps not unsurprisingly owing to their
age, and the context of their demographic data which highlights challenging home situations
for over two thirds of participants. This context would help explain the finding above where
the domains in Table 16 were equally valued in contrast to Eccles’ expectation that one
would be more highly valued arising from parental influence and beliefs. We found a
majority of participants’ to be self-motivating at the outset of the study and in keeping with
Bandura’s social cognitive theory alluded to above, they reported a high degree of perceived
self-efficacy in relation to their personal and professional skills sets as assessed through the
initial work-readiness survey. Whilst these may not be readily attributable to direct parental
involvement, they may signal intervention by care workers, social workers or youth workers.
In view of the relationship between EEVT and motivation (Wigfield, 1994), the group’s belief
that they would benefit from participating in the programme is likely to have contributed to
their persistence. When combined with their reported satisfaction with the training and work-
placement components, it led to successful outcomes for those who completed it.
Domains of work-readiness
Using discourse, content and thematic analyses a positive correlation was found between
participation in the Career LEAP programme and improvements across most of the domains
of work-readiness used in this study. Participants’ post-placement data were compared with
baseline interview data and aggregated across the group. They are summarised below
(Table 17).
Table 17.
Comparison of participants’ pre-training with post-placement results
Career motivation
Knowing their likes and interests in a job
and career
Career qualities
Knowing their personal strengths,
weaknesses and talents
Career networking
Knowing people who can help them with
their careers
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Career profiling
Their ability to showcase their career
Career exploration
Knowing how to explore education,
employment and training opportunities
Career control
Setting career goals and actively
pursuing them
Career ambition
Being ambitious in their career plans
Job searching
Being serious and active in job searching
Workplace civility
Attitudes towards being civil towards
other at work
Workplace diversity
Attitudes towards working with diverse
Managing conflict
Skills in managing workplace conflicts
Confidence in leadership skills
Critical and creative
Ability to think critically and creatively
Professional competencies: timekeeping,
reliability, integrity
Work vigour
Feeling vigorous when working or
Work dedication
Being dedicated to work or study
Work absorption
Being absorbed in working or studying
Table 17 reveals some key messages about the impact of Career LEAP on this group of
young adults. It aligns with a number of differences which emerged in the survey data
where several participants appeared to be stronger in some domains before the programme
started, with slight decreases in these domains by programme end. We did not find that
participants’ skill sets deteriorated over the course of the programme but rather the
qualitative evidence points to an initial over estimation of their abilities, skill sets and levels
of preparedness about what they wanted to do with their life and how to behave
professionally in the work environment. The interview data reveals that almost two thirds of
participants felt
about areas such as career ambition, motivation,
career control and their ability to interact successfully in the workplace before the
programme began. Participants’ perspectives changed over the course of the interview data,
with post-training results reflecting a general enthusiasm about acquiring new skills and
abilities, some of which they thought they previously had but noted that the training had
considerably improved and developed. However, post-placement results reveal a deeper
level of personal reflection by most participants. With a majority lacking practical work
experience, they now reported recognising the intricacies of a workplace environment and
the complexities of managing workplace relationships, conflict, diversity and maintaining
professional competencies, often for the first time in their life.
The thorough pre-planning which underpins the Career LEAP model ensured that
participants’ work-placements were structured, meaningful, appropriately challenging and
contributed to the day to day activities of that industry. Such an experience appears to have
contributed to participants’ re-assessment of their skill sets, and in many cases, re-evaluating
what they had previously professed as their desired career choices. By the end of the
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
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programme, several rated themselves lower on some domains as evident from the survey
results, and as reported during post-placement interviews. This realisation was not
negatively reported however, but welcomed by participants and attributed to the critical and
reflective capacities developed during the training programme and the challenging but
positive experience they had on work-placement. The certainty around ‘job choices’ and
what they wanted to do with their lives which over half had initially reported during pre-
training interviews, was replaced by a degree of confident and comfortable ‘uncertainty’ at
the end of the programme, and a growing awareness of different career paths and the role
of education in moving towards these at different stages of their life cycle. The formative
influence of visiting business leaders during training and of their mentors was notably
reported on here as participants referred to these experiences during post-placement
Table 17 also highlights that some domains remained relatively unchanged or reflected small
changes only, such as career exploration, job searching, workplace civility and respecting
diversity. We found that participants appeared well prepared in these domains before the
programme began, and they remained reasonably stable over time. Career ambition was
rated highly throughout, signalling this group’s strong desire to enter the workplace.
However, the data revealed a qualitative difference in the language used to discuss career
ambition pre-training and post-placement. Unequivocal aspirations to get ‘a job’ in the retail,
services or construction industries for a majority of the group were replaced at programme
end by extended discourse identifying concrete pathways and strategies to develop a career
either in the same industry (which remained stable across time for almost two thirds of the
group), or to follow a different career path. Opportunities to re-engage with formal
education as a pathway to help them achieve their career ambitions was identified by over
half of the group during post-placement interviews.
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
2 Pre-training interview results
Data from the pre-training interviews reflected participants’ anxiousness about beginning the
programme, particularly with people they may not previously know, but this was combined
with a strong sense of excitement and of wanting to begin so that they could move closer to
getting ‘a job’. A large majority of participants reported an expectation or a hope that the
programme would provide them with a job at the end. Members of the research team and
the Project Manager addressed this during the training, re-iterating that Career LEAP is a
work-readiness programme and does not provide participants with guaranteed employment
on completion.
Motivating themselves to get out of bed and turn up for the programme on time was
identified as a challenge for just over half of the participants. This was attributed to having
acquired ‘bad habits from watching movies and playing online video games late into the
night, and not having a routine as a result of being long term unemployed or never having
had the opportunity to work before. Poor attendance at previous training programmes was
identified as a significant issue for two thirds of participants, but they noted that this
programme seemed different owing to the application process and the interview they did
with the project manager, and the opportunity of getting work experience.
Support with childcare issues was identified by only one participant.
The results from participants’ post-training and post-placement data and mentor and
stakeholder data are presented in the sections below.
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
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3 Post-training interview results
This section summarises the main findings from the post-training data collection phase. A
number of key strengths of the programme are highlighted, along with several weaknesses
and areas for improvement as perceived by participants. Data are illustrated through
participant quotations. All participants reported enjoying the training, and the analysis
revealed 4 strong themes evident in their responses: (i) participants responded well to the
nature of the training programme, and (ii) to the pedagogy and teaching style. They
recognised that they were (iii) learning new skills, and (iv) developing personally.
Programme strengths
The training programme is believed by participants to be particularly beneficial in the two
areas of development it was designed to target participants’ personal development, and for
the preparation and teaching of practical skills to enable participants to focus on their career
planning and secure employment. Specifically, participants highlighted contributions towards
their personal development, such as an increase in self-confidence, learning new skills,
meeting new people and learning about their own capabilities. Participants also noted
learning a wide range of new practical skills such as preparation for the work-placement,
writing CVs and learning about their future job.
“I just enjoyed everything about the programme because this is the first part of it.
And the first week of the programme it was about getting to know what you value at
work, and how to get your CV prepared and I actually enjoyed everything.
Participants were also impressed with the innovative nature of the teaching methods. They
spoke about the programme as being informative and engaging; involving interesting
teaching methods such as teamwork and fun activities.
“I enjoyed every bit of it. ... There wasn’t one thing I disliked about it. I have to say
it’s a very interesting course because you are learning about yourself and learning
about staying strong … like you’re hearing about other people’s problems how they
couldn’t get a job and you’re explaining yourself how you can’t get a job. So it’s really
I liked when we were giving examples and the people in the class they were
practicing it and so we could see like what should we do and what should we don’t,
you know, if you see it visually. I loved the mock interviews liked the physical. Put
you on the spot to remember small details. Proud of our work in role. I enjoyed
listening to trainers and their enthusiasm.
The development of communication skills, networking skills and confidence development
were among the most commonly recurring themes across all responses in the post training
interviews. The theme ‘development of communication skills’ appeared across a third of the
main questions in the interview. The participants spoke about their awareness of how to talk
appropriately and politely at work. They felt better able to approach colleagues for advice
and felt they were able to express themselves better.
“... learned how to ask politely ‘would you know someone who would know someone
who would have work that I’m interested in’.”
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“My communication skills are a lot better now. It’s given me more motivation and
more confidence to find work.”
Very helpful. Big improvement in works skills. ... Communicate better. Able to ask
people questions. For example, if I needed advice.”
They spoke of their awareness of the importance of using different communication styles
whilst at work and when with friends and family members. They also valued the opportunity
to meet people from various backgrounds and strongly agreed they would carry that
knowledge into their future jobs and work environments. The participants specifically valued
the exercises on speech training as it allowed them to learn to speak appropriately in the
work place. They highlighted becoming more professional with their speech and were using
differentiated communication styles with their friends and the business people they met
during the training.
The participants highlighted their experiences of working in a team and learning to listen to
everybody. They were better able to get along in groups of unknown people and were able
to meet new people and introduce themselves. They agreed they have developed their
networking skills and improved friendship and relationship development skills. They identified
learning networking skills as particularly valuable. The theme ‘networking’ appeared in 6 out
of 13 main questions selected for the analysis in the post-training interview. Over the
duration of the training programme, the participants also continuously built their relationship
with course trainers and visiting business people. As their networking skills developed they
were able to interact more freely with business people participating in the training
programme, which in turn helped them to gain a perspective on what employers are looking
for in employees. They valued the opportunity to learn something new from different people
and from people from different backgrounds. They agreed that it made the overall
experience of the training programme less frightening and more human.
“I lack confidence a lot. I’m usually a shy person. This programme just sparked me
out. It made me more confident to speak to the interviewers, to meet managers. I
met some of the most important people around. People in HR, including the Minister
of Housing, that’s big.”
[David] [This participant was invited to address a meeting of
a housing forum for homeless people during the training, which he noted he would
not have been able to do without developing his social and communication skills
during training.]
I learned to talk louder and approach someone.”
Yeah, speaking in front of the group as well with people you wouldn’t have met
before. Yeah public speaking really helped us.”
In turn, the theme ‘development of confidence’ appeared in 4 out of 13 main questions. The
participants spoke of growing their confidence, being able to stand up in front of the group
and speak, being able to speak louder and clearer, and being able to speak to the research
interviewers. They learnt how to approach people, and how to talk to people they previously
didn’t know with confidence.
It was very very useful because I used to be shy. I used to never really talk to
anyone in a new different place but I felt really comfortable in here. It was real
peaceful and like I’ll get to know him and it will all just happen now. And once you
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walk in the door it’s like ‘Ah, how are you [name]?’ You feel relaxed in there. It’s just
relief because you’re after coming out of your shell. It’s like a flower. It starts out as
a little seed and grows up and blossoms. That’s the way I felt.”
They were able to make new friends and interact in a respectful way. Participants strongly
agreed that they learnt both about work and life over the duration of the training. They
stressed that the training programme was huge on experience and confidence building. As
a result, participants felt more confident and more excited about their future. They identified
that working together and sharing experiences seemed more useful than working in
isolation, and aided their overall development. Among the confidence building strategies,
one they were particularly impressed with was the development of different voice strategies
such as interview voice, voice on the phone, etc. Importantly, as appears from the results of
the data analysis, a distinction should be made between the development of confidence
skills, organisational skills and the development of enthusiasm and motivation of the
participants. These three themes came up as separate themes in their responses. In terms
of being more organised- the participants agreed they were better able to settle into a
routine now. In reference to being more enthusiastic and feeling more motivated- they were
excited about meeting new people and were appreciative of peer support.
The group placed equal importance on their personal development, preparation for
the work-placement and careers, and learning of practical skills.
Among the most important parts of the programme they highlighted were the following four
areas: learning of CV skills and the information on what a CV should contain. Secondly, they
stressed learning a number of work related practical skills such as appropriate professional
behaviour at work, the importance of professional conduct and how not to mess around in
the work environment, the importance of showing that you are interested in the job,
communication skills and networking. Thirdly, they valued the opportunity to undertake
meaningful and practical work experience. They maintained that this experience was
extremely important and very hard to get outside of this training programme. And lastly, the
they were positive about participating in career planning they felt more motivated and felt
able to make realistic plans about their future careers.
“I felt like all of the exercises were brilliant, like the interview skills and the general
brainstorming situations like that were very good for helping you out in situations of
all types like discrimination in the office and conflict in the office, things like that. It
kind of taught you what to do in that situation which was very good.
Areas for improvement
Several participants suggested a small number of areas in which the training programme
could be improved.
The first area is related to pedagogy. As emerged from the data analysis, in the first week of
the programme there was a lot of focus on work: about the importance of work and getting
ready for work. It was perceived as too person focused by one participant.
“... I didn’t like the first week as much when they were going on about the work,
yourself and getting ready for work. I didn’t like that because it was all about the
person but it depends on what way you would go about working and what you would
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Another respondent did not like the socialising aspect of the programme and was not in
favour of being put into a situation of having to talk to other people. Also, 2 participants did
not enjoy some of the writing activities of the training programme. They highlighted that
sometimes writing tasks reminded them of schoolwork, and at times made them feel
frustrated and lose interest in learning as a result.
“I didn’t enjoy using the workbook... the workbook involved being seated and
stationary, and I preferred the more interactive activities.”
“… the writing sometimes felt a bit like schoolwork. That’s when I get frustrated and
lose interest.
There was recognition that the development of confidence and motivation to approach and
talk to people, takes time. This specifically related to personal skills development and getting
to know people. A number of participants (n=5) felt that the length of the training
programme could be increased to allow for more training on the development of
interpersonal and communication skills which were one of the mostly frequently mentioned
skill sets positively developed as a result of training.
When asked if the programme was long enough, 5 noted that it is good as it is. They
clarified that 3 hours of training during the day was long enough, and the timing was
perfect. They noted that if the programme was longer, they may lose focus.
No, three hours is enough, coz I think at the end of it everyone was getting worn
“Yeah it was grand. We weren’t getting tired or lazy. It was just like perfect timing to
be actually doing it because we had lunch and were all functional ... if you were
doing a full day you’d get tired and bored. You’d start slouching and falling asleep
and all. So 3 hours is grand.
Nevertheless, these participants expressed a preference for slightly longer breaks, with one
cautioning about getting too comfortable with one another, which he noted had happened in
other courses he had participated in.
“Yeah, just a little bit longer break please, maybe 15 minutes. I think afternoons was
great. That was fine because I think if I was to wake up in the morning I wouldn’t be
full of energy to do any of this stuff. Full days, no, I think the time was perfect. I
think if it was longer than 2 weeks then we are all going to get too cozy together.
We’ll forget, we’ll be like oh we’re friends now. We’ll forget what we’re doing. Yeah, I
don’t want to get too cozy, two weeks was enough. It was good to socialise and all
but I have to keep my mind on what’s important to me.”
In addition, 2 participants noted that the programme could be delivered over one week full
time, while 7 participants stressed that the programme’s length could be increased by a few
weeks. They clarified that it would help them to learn more, to become more knowledgeable,
to meet new people and get to know them better. They wanted to learn and practice more
interview and CV skills. One respondent called for a slight extension to the day, noting:
“Maybe another hour but that’s just me. That’s just how I feel. Other people could be
like No it’s too long... No the time that it is – half one to five o’clock. That isn’t bad
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but even from half one to half five. It would be six hours. That’s good. That’s good
learning. Because before I used to just go home from FAS and decide what I am
going to do today. I walk home from this and it’s just whow. I’m actually thinking, on
the way home about my career and what we learned.
Areas of particular note
Several dominant themes emerged from the interview data and these are reported below,
supported by evidence from transcripts.
The data analysis revealed that the programme was perceived to be very informative and
engaging by all participants, and involved interesting teaching methods like teamwork, role
play and various fun activities. When speaking of the nature of the training programme,
participants used words like ‘great’, ‘enjoyable’, ‘very helpful’.
When referring to the teaching styles and the teaching in general, participants spoke about
the impact of the trainers. A number of teaching methods were found to be valuable
debates, anecdotes from other people’s lives and stories, group activities, interviewing each
other, and mock interviews with trainers and the visiting business people. The teaching
styles of the trainers were seen as new, innovative and interactive. One respondent was
most impressed with the Matrix method of decision making, related to the activity of the blue
and red pill (creative and critical thinking exercise). The participants pointed out that career
planning was taught in an interactive style. They stressed that every day they learnt
something new. Responses highlighted that the interactive approach helped them to stay
focused and motivated: ‘it was brilliant’ and it ‘kept you alive’.
I just think [name of trainer] in general is amazing. I think she has a way of
teaching that I’ve never seen before. Because I left school at a young age, been in
courses and other things in my life. But the way she has and the way of teaching, for
me personally, for me she just sucks me in and I just listen to her. She’s very good.
It was just nice, she’s full of energy. She’s not one of those that bores you to death.
She’s full of energy and she keeps you sucked in. Yeah she’s a good teacher.”
The teaching methods were seen as very engaging, interactive, full of energy and
enthusiastic, but some of the content had been met by participants before, albeit
experienced differently.
“There was a lot of things that I learnt before in courses and that, like interview skills
but it was like I didn’t actually know them before now. The way they was taught here
was different and meant something to you. Like networking and communication
skills, really good teaching. It kind of sticks with you the way it’s done, and it was
“In ways, I had sort of seen them before (interview skills, planning, networking), but
the way you approached them was new and innovative, like the other day we had
the Matrix one with the blue and the red pill and I was on the debating team. I
thought that was very good, like it gives you a chance to hear what other people
think and to practise critical thinking.”
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The opportunity to speak freely to trainers and express opinions was highly valued by all
Learning from the workbook was identified as both enjoyable and positive by a large
I liked everything. The work we done in the books. I learned loads from them.”
The exercise of writing in their workbooks was seen as useful for the development of
organisational skills and helped them to settle into a routine. Several activities from the
workbook were valued, such as the CV error spotting task, and the workplace civility
exercises. In turn, role play was also highlighted as helping to learn about oneself and to see
how everything works in practice, and an appreciation of the related poetry exercises were
The pedagogy, particularly concerning how the training programme was organised and
delivered, was identified as being balanced by participants. The majority particularly valued
the motivational aspect of the programme. While learning specific skills was highly rated, the
motivational aspects and person-centred approach was found to be the most valuable aspect
by the majority of participants (over 90%).
Motivation was a big factor for me because of the way the course was organised
and the leader’s intertest in the group. Meeting new people from the businesses was
also very motivating, like to think they stated off like us, crazy to think of that, but
it’s true. Received a lot of peer support too from the group. I really wanted to attend
this course and I’m so glad that I got the chance to do it”.
Teamwork was highlighted as a positive aspect that provided the experience of working in a
team, learning new skills and the opportunity to listen to everybody. They noted that their
confidence grew as a result. Over two weeks they learnt to get along with others and were
able to stand up in front of the group, to speak, to ask questions and interact in a more
open and engaging way. For most participants it was reported as the first opportunity in
their lives to feel as valued members of a group and interact with unknown people, feeling
relaxed and able to enjoy the experience. At the same time it was noted that the pedagogy
allowed them, concurrently, to start thinking about their future in regard to how to secure a
good position in a company and start building a good career.
By the end of the training, participants felt well equipped with the skills relevant to work.
They learnt appropriate professional behaviour, how to be polite and considerate of others,
of the importance of showing that they are interested in the job when at an interview,
tailoring their CV to different jobs on offer, preparing for interviews, appropriate
communication styles and networking skills.
When asked if the training programme should be delivered by business people on their own,
the majority (13 out of 15) were in favour of a joint delivery approach. 2 participants rated
the contribution of business people in the training programme as slightly higher than that of
the trainers. But all responded extremely well to the integration of members from the
business community into the classes in an active way, identifying that it facilitated a real-life
perspective on the work environment and on people’s career development. They weren’t just
sitting and listening to them, they got to see them ‘in action’ and work with them. One
respondent specifically mentioned that having both trainers and business people run the
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training programme exposed them to two different perspectives of the experience of job
searching and preparation for ‘a life of work. She maintained that it made the experience
more accessible:
Their experience the different sides to it. It made the experience more
understandable to me.
I was shocked when actually all the business people were there when we turned up
at the lunch. … Literally we were just going around talking to different business
people, introducing ourselves and talking about jobs and all so. Like I wouldn’t have
done that any time in my life, I wouldn’t have. Would never have thought of it. Never
thought I’d be able to do it either. Yeah. I could go onto that street there and go out
and introduce myself to anyone now. … No. It would be too professional like if the
course were run by the business people alone.
Experiencing real life examples of how successful business people built their careers from the
ground up, was identified by participants as motivating them to develop their own careers
and giving them ‘something to think about’, ‘a valuable take home message’ every day. The
respondents also felt that the trainers prepared them well to be able to face business people
and to know how to interact in the workplace and behave at interviews:
“ … especially to hear where they started from, most of them started out and left
school at the age of 13 or 14 with no qualifications either. I think having the
community as part of Career LEAP is good, they do a lot more for the people. Some
communities like the Swan Youth club and all, everyone is great and all but you are
getting that extra opportunity here to learn something new from different people. I
thought it was great and I would keep it the way it is.
There were one or two people, business people we met every day. Some of them
had nothing as well and built their way up. It’s like they put the ladder up against the
wall and it was like a never ending wall for them. I mean does that not really just
make you think how far you can actually drag yourself without giving up. That’s how
I see it. Business men came in and business women. That’s helpful because you are
learning what their job is. You would need the normal trainers there as well for the
advice because if you walked in and there was like four Bank of Ireland managers
sitting there what are you going to think about? You wouldn’t know what to do.”
It was evident that the respondents perceived business people as of high status and
generally felt that they might be unapproachable. However, their participation in the training
programme and the pedagogical approach used to actively engage them, helped to eliminate
that perspective:
Yes, very helpful. ... Suits equals status to me. Meeting them made them more
human and less frightening. The interview with the Minister made me feel more on
an even level with them as ordinary people like.
[Matthew] [A Government Minister
of State visited the programme and engaged in a role play with a number of
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Job Versus Career
The participants felt well prepared across a range of skills that they perceived as necessary
to secure employment. In comparison to the pre-training data, the discourse analysis
revealed a slight but significant shift in language use amongst participants from ‘getting a
job’ to ‘having a career’. Career was mentioned almost as often as the word ‘job’ in post-
training interview data.
The theme ‘career / preparation for career and career planning’ emerged across the
responses to 6 out of 13 main questions in the post-training interview. In response to the
‘What did you enjoy most?’
more than three quarters of participants identified that
they enjoyed thinking about the future, thinking about how to get a good position in a
company and their options for building a good career. The training programme was
perceived as very helpful for preparing them for career planning. The study participants
agreed they started to think about the future and how to get a good position in a company,
building a good career over time, rather than thinking in terms of getting a job. One
respondent specifically mentioned that he now felt able to begin to move towards his dream
career. The study participants agreed feeling more motivated and able to make realistic
plans about their futures:
Yeah it got you thinking about what you wanted to do and got you thinking more,
and like making realistic plans.”
They also felt confident and comfortable sharing their career plans with fellow participants:
... The career planning. Because we all got together and then we all split up into
groups. We got to share what career we wanted, and plan how we plan to get there.
I said mine and then he said his, and then she said hers. I feel great. It’s like I can
actually feel myself now. I know where I’m going. I have motivation now.” [Rachel]
The teaching method based on an interactive teaching style was identified as innovative and
helpful for learning career planning skills.
I have done career planning but it was nothing like the way we done it. A whole
different layout. ... like a totally different layout to when I was in school. You’re not
just sitting there behind a desk with your finger in your mouth not saying anything.
When you are there you can let everything out and it’s like you can walk out and be
like, what a day I’m working on my career plan. I can’t wait for tomorrow. That’s
how I see it.
A number of the participants were open to the possibility of returning to formal education as
part of progressing their careers. For example, one became aware of a training course he
needs to take to be able to move to the career he dreamt of. His aspiration was to work in
the children’s hospital and he needed to take a childcare course:
Such as, when I was told that the porter job that I wanted to do, that you’d need
certain things, coz it depends on the porter work that you want to do, if you want to
work in a kids hospital or in an adults hospital. Things like a childcare course would
be useful coz you would be working with kids. I am thinking about doing that next.
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2 out of 15 participants (a significant minority) were not sure how helpful the training
programme was for their career planning.
“Mostly useful. Parts of it I didn’t really see how it would be of much use. It’s still
good to think about different aspects of career development that you wouldn’t really
think to think about.
The theme ‘skills’ emerged in responses to 7 out of 13 main interview questions in the post-
training interview. One of the most often mentioned skills learnt at the training programme
was how to structure and compose a CV. Aspects of a CV such as relevant information,
layout and matching the CV to the position on offer were mentioned. The participants also
highlighted learning a range of career planning skills such as interview skills, networking
skills, people skills, critical thinking skills and work-placement skills. Their personal attitude
has also improved significantly they perceived themselves as more punctual, enthusiastic
and more aware of how to present themselves in a professional setting. They felt better
equipped for working in a team and interacting in groups.
The participants perceived themselves as well prepared for work-placement and future jobs
and education opportunities. The theme ‘preparation for work-placement and a job’ has
emerged across the responses to 5 out of 13 main interview questions. In regard to what to
expect during work-placement, the participants spoke of appropriate and inappropriate
behaviour at work and were aware of how to settle a conflict. The analysis revealed that
participants were aware that behaving professionally at work and feeling confident is
important. Among the critical reasoning and creative thinking skills learnt, participants
identified the following: being better prepared to face challenging situations at work and able
to identify and resolve issues of possible discrimination and conflict; being able to suggest
solutions to work tasks and different ways of seeing and doing things to get a better result.
“I learned a lot around behavioural work. What’s appropriate, what’s inappropriate,
being civil to the co-workers, things along those lines.”
“... I felt like all of the exercises like the interview skills and the general
brainstorming situations like that were very good for helping you out in situations of
all types like discrimination in the office and conflict in the office, things like that. It
kind of taught you what to do in that situation which was very good.”
They spoke of work experience as being very important, but difficult to get.
“I thought it was very important to have work experience as part of the course. I feel
like it is very hard to get even work experience, to even get a second look in a
workplace, everyone is looking for experience and when no one is handing out jobs
it’s very hard to gain experience.”
The work-placement experience was perceived as valuable because it would show them
what it actually means to be in a real job.
Social awareness
There was a sense of appreciation of the welcoming and friendly environment of the training
programme that made participants feel ‘safe’ and better able to focus on learning as a result.
They felt comfortable working in groups and were able to express themselves, which they
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had previously not experienced in other training situations or in school. This they felt
improved their learning and their awareness of the needs of others.
“The social aspect of it, working in a team, learning new skills, learning to listen to
everybody to hear their point of view and how we work with others.”
In addition, the responses seemed to highlight a social awareness issue where participants
perceived people in management roles (managers, administrators and HR people) as
important and of high status, and generally felt that they would be unapproachable.
Participation in the programme and the opportunity to interact with representatives of the
business community helped to eliminate that perspective. One participant used the words ‘I
was shocked when actually all the business people were there to meet us’ to describe his
attitudes towards the involvement of the representatives of the business community in the
training programme.
There was evidence that participants lacked confidence and basic social and communication
skills prior to the start of training (Project Manager’s profiles, pre-training interviews and
application forms). For example, almost half were late for one of their meetings with the
Project Manager during the initial stages of the programme, or didn’t return a call. This lack
of the social context of the workplace could be linked to their education levels, and lack of
previous employment opportunities. While we found self-reported evidence that all
participants felt their social skills and awareness of the needs of others had improved during
training, a number of issues remained during work-placement for several young adults which
are discussed in a later section.
Aural confidence
The participants displayed a high level of aural confidence throughout the responses to the
questions, responding directly and in a focused manner to the questions asked. It can be
suggested that the high levels of displayed aural competence and confidence could be
indicative of the effectiveness of the training programme and of its impact on the
development of their communication and interview skills. It is recommended that an
assessment of participants’ communication styles prior to the start of the training
programme be undertaken in future iterations of the research study as a more reliable
measure of its impact. Learning to concentrate, focus and listen more intently to peers,
trainers and the visiting business members was identified by over a third of respondents as a
skill set acquired during training.
Family link
There appeared to be no direct evidence of family influence on participants’ expectations of
the training programme, of their work-placement experience, or of their career planning. No
reference to family members was made by any participant in this regard.
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4 Post work-placement interviews
“Well if I give it from 1 to 10, I will give 11. Yeah, it was amazing and the people were
very helpful and very nice. Yeah, I loved it. .. First of all I enjoyed the people around me,
they were very nice, very kind and second thing that I enjoyed, was the amount of work
experience that they gave to us in that short period of time. And the amount of effort
that they did with me and the guy that I was with so… it was amazing.”
The section below summarises the main findings from the post-placement data. A number of
key strengths and weaknesses of the work-placements are highlighted. The role of the
training programme in the work-placement experience is discussed, along with the role of
the mentor. The summary also provides examples of the ways in which participants felt
supported by their mentors and by work colleagues.
Work-placement experience
In total 13 participants attended the work-placement, as 2 secured jobs immediately after
completing the training component. A further 2 respondents got full time jobs arising from
their work-placement, an additional 2 received short term contacts, and 4 were offered part
time jobs in their placement businesses while they undertook further education. All
respondents agreed that they enjoyed work-placement and had a positive learning
experience. The data analysis revealed the young adults most appreciated the work-
placement experience because it afforded them the opportunity to experience what it is like
to be in a real job working with different kinds of people. Participants spoke of their
experience as ‘really good, hugely enjoyable’, and a real eye opener. They agreed that
sometimes they felt outside of their comfort zones, but nevertheless enjoyed the learning
experience, particularly when they got to solve problems. The work-placement offered the
opportunity to see if the participants liked /disliked their jobs and the tasks associated with
it. It fed into their longer-term career planning strategies, as illustrated by the respondent
below, who had initially expressed in his application form that he just wanted a job:
Yeah. It was useful overall because I got to see what it was like and overall would
I like it altogether, or not. So yeah it was … It was very useful. Yeah, I now know I
would like that kind of work but not for a lifelong job.
One respondent particularly appreciated having a routine, and as a result, he felt more
purposeful having something to do on a regular basis throughout the day.
Duration of work-placement
In response to the question if the work-placement was long enough, 5 participants indicated
that the length of time was just right, and that 3 weeks were perfect.
Yeah, I thought the work placement was perfect. A bit more than that, if you
possibly didn’t like the job would be a bit much. But I thought three weeks was
perfect. Well for me it was perfect because I was told that because I was on work
placement I could come in the day, in the night or in the morning, like so I was
able to pick the time I came in.
“I think it’s enough and I am really well prepared now to get a job. … For me it really
helped me and it was enough.
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An additional 5 highlighted that the length of time spent in work-placement needed to be
increased. These respondents felt that the work-placement experience could run for about a
month or slightly longer.
It flew by it did. It felt like I just done one week. Just constantly going like. Yeah
I’d stay there if I could. I loved it. You could do like the 4 weeks. ... it’s a big
store, there’s loads to actually get around and in three weeks, we done 3 or 4
different departments but I wanted to stay with the visual merchandising team.
So I went and asked could I stay there for 2 weeks. I done 10 4 every day. And
then on my last day, on Friday they asked me to come in at half seven in the
morning till 4 o clock. They were good hours, yeah. Cause it helps you have loads
of time to have breakfast in the morning and when you go home like it’s not that
late, you can do what you had planned, like go to the gym and stuff like that.
Respondents’ data reveals the flexibility afforded by the businesses and the mentors in terms
of the opportunities, shifts and working hours offered to them whilst on placement which
successfully eased their transition into a work environment.
Work-placement strengths
Well out of any work or work experience I would have done so far this is the best one
I have done. Well I was working in the kitchen. I was supposed to be a chef. And as
well as actually doing the work it was a lot of fun so time would fly. And I learned a lot
as well.
The work-placement was identified as being instrumental in helping participants to prepare
for future employment mostly in the following 3 areas: confidence building, allowing them to
see what a real job was like, and in their personal and professional skills development.
Confidence building was mentioned by over three quarters of respondents. Participants
spoke of the confidence they gained (and re-gained). The majority also reported feeling
ready to go out and look for work now.
But what I found helpful was the … what’s the word for that? Sorry I keep
forgetting the word, the belief that I had lost, the belief that I was lost in
myself… I gained that back. The confidence that I lost yeah, so I gained that
back and the way that all the time they were encouraging you really helped. So
that confidence I gained it back, which was priceless.
Very important. Like, as I said, it gave me a lot of confidence. I feel … well
obviously I do … I have experience now. I know exactly what I want … well not
exactly what I want, but I know what I like. I got several good references and
that builds your confidence up too.
“Everything, everything, I cannot just name one thing. If I name one I will name
the mentor who encouraged me a lot. Like the most important thing was the
confidence that I lost in myself because every time I was hearing from the people
around me was, ‘you cannot find a job, you’re worthless, you’re like ‘this and
that’. I got my confidence back when they offered me a job.
The work-placement experiences offered the opportunity to see what real employment was
like, as many respondents got to work in different sections of the businesses.
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“I felt like it developed me as a worker much more than I was before and helped
me just gain a little bit of confidence when I’m going into the work place. What
stood out - personal and professional development I thought in myself, and
developing in the workplace as a proper worker. Instead of just sitting back and
watching everyone do stuff I can get up and do it myself.”
The following skills were identified as
developed during the work-placement
experience: customer service skills, working with new equipment, speaking appropriately,
and critical thinking.
“Working with like different kinds of people as well, you’ve to understand if they
can’t understand you talking, you can’t say ‘well you should understand me’. You
have to try work things out with them.
The participants felt they became more professional in their behaviour, had better time
keeping and organisational skills, learnt good manners and also gained practical work skills
related to the business they were in.
It was very important cause it got me ready for like if I was going for a job
interview, it just gets you ready for the future like. You can’t go in and just start
messing around, throwing things and all, as if you’re going in with your mates.
You have to go in and look good, act professional. Everything that’s happening on
the outside of your life has to stay outside the store when you're going to work.
You just have to be a different person. Time keeping, that’s very important and
good manners
.” [Larry]
The work experience was perceived as important as it allowed them to work with different
kinds of people, working things out with them, working collaboratively and in a team. They
unanimously enjoyed meeting people and learning new things.
The role of the training programme in the work-placement experience
In response to the question ‘
How useful was the 2 week training programme for helping you
during the work-placement
, almost all participants (except 1) drew a parallel between the 2
experiences. 5 themes emerged from across the data: how to behave professionally at work,
practising communication skills, learning interview skills, confidence development, and time
management/organisational skills. Respondents perceived the training as helping them to
deal with challenging situations and resolving minor potential conflicts during placement.
They also felt better equipped to behave professionally with different people, including
customers and working collaboratively with colleagues. They learnt the importance of using
different communication styles with friends and family and in the work situation. The
respondents also noted they were more appreciative of different cultures and different
“A lot of the stuff we practised with [name of trainer] helped me. It helped me
know how to act professionally, in many small things like shaking hands
properly and keeping a distance between your public and private life. These
were new ideas to me which were very useful on the job.
The participants highlighted that the interview skills and opportunities to playfully explore
likely workplace scenarios were the most valued skills they learnt during the training
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
programme. They reported feeling more confident about themselves and their abilities as a
result. They were able to speak up and felt better equipped to work collaboratively with co-
workers and customers having had the opportunity to regularly role play a number of such
scenarios during the training.
“... The most helpful thing was of course they gave us scenarios of how to do
interviews and stuff and they ask the people in the class to do it so we can see it
visually. Where you can see where’s your strength and like… it was very helpful,
very helpful, everything was helpful, but the most important thing was yeah the
training us how to behave on the job, of course that’s the most important thing.”
“... And learning that not all of the interviewers are against you. That they want
to find the best candidate who could possibly be you for that job, so you pick up
a good few things like this which are really helpful on the job.”
[Participant 12]
They also felt they could plan better for their futures as a result of the training which came
to life for them during placement. All of the participants felt better organised and prepared.
The following were the most frequently reported
organisational skills
they learnt during the
training programme which helped them during placement: being punctual and on time,
being a good listener and tuning in to instructions, remaining focused on the task, being
confident enough to suggest ideas to work colleagues, and being better organised
throughout the day.
“Brilliant. It taught me always to be punctual. To be on time, all the time. It’s
very important to get there early instead of coming in rushing late. Having your
stuff organised. It taught me to get my stuff organised. Yeah. It was good. It
helped me a lot.”
“... How to keep your home friendships and work friendships separate and how to
talk to someone in work and how to talk to someone at home.”
It was very useful, there a good connection between training and work
experience. It got us ready for going in like ‘cause we learned about the different
cultures that we were going to be using, like talking to different people with
different languages, like how to use your good manners. Like, I could have gone
in one day in a bad mood and they probably wouldn’t have been happy with me
but when we were doing the training that’s what we learned before we went in.
Like we learned how to do all that.
“Yes. Wonderful because before we go to the work placement we have to get
advice for example. You know, the training. For example this training it was kind
of teaching you how to be professional in the work placement. So it has prepared
me to be professional before I go to the placement so it is really, really helpful.”
When asked what
career planning skills
the respondents used in their work-placements, the
analysis revealed the following themes: interacting with people at work, practising
networking skills, motivation and enthusiasm, deciding whether this employment area was a
career option for them in the future, knowing what they valued in the workplace (i.e. being
busy, interacting with customers, working with other people, flexible shifts), and computer
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
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skills. The respondents noted that the skills they used were all as equally useful as each
other. Among the interaction skills the following were mentioned: working in a team, helping
the public and customers, giving advice, interacting with people, good customer service and
communication skills.
The analysis of responses to the question
‘How useful was the training programme for
helping you develop and explore your personality and personal skills whilst on placement?’
indicated that the respondents highlighted first and foremost an increase in self-confidence.
They also noted that they felt better about themselves having something to do during the
day, they got on great with people and were more confident and motivated to work and
meet people.
When asked ‘
if the Career LEAP Programme was different from other training programmes
you have participated in before’
, 4 respondents said it was the first course they have
attended. They noted that the course was excellent, it was designed to get them ready for
work and they felt it gave them many opportunities as well as practical and interview skills. 6
participants noted that the course was different to ones they have previously attended. They
explained that the Career LEAP training programme involved the trainers and the companies
working together, the training and work experiences were well organised, and the
respondents felt mentally and emotionally supported. One respondent who secured a full-
time position alluded to the inter-connectedness of the approach:
“It was the first thing I did that I liked. It was excellent. I really enjoyed it. If I
were out of work again it is something I would do.... See the thing is they tell
you, you don’t get a job out of it. That it’s not designed for that. It’s just
designed to get you ready for work. It is very well designed to get you ready for
work but if you do go in there and show people you want to learn and work hard
there could be a job at the end of it for you. Just show them what you can do.
Obviously they can’t tell you at the start that you might get a job because then
you wouldn’t try. … It gives you so many opportunities.”
Highlighting the translation of theory into practice, another participant differentiated
between the nature of the ‘training’ in Career LEAP and other training courses she had
participated in previously:
Yes. I can say that the training I did before had interview skills. But it was really
different from the one I did here because I got more experience. Like, it really
helped me to do interview skills, practical skills. But before, I never practiced
them. I have never seen practical interview skills. Yea, it was … I can really say
it was really different. But this training was my first real experience of training.
Career LEAP’s integrated model which adopts a joined-up approach was identified by
several young adults as a key strength:
“Yes. I think it is a bit different because … well it involved everybody. Not just like
a work placement in a company. It’s the company, the tutors, like everybody is
involved. So I think it is very, very important. For example, in some training
programme they only give you the training. They don’t give you the work
experience. The work placement, you can just go and find it for yourself. So this
has everything organised, you know. I think this is most important. [Ali]
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
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It is totally, completely different. Especially the work experience that they gave.
It’s completely different... I loved it. The most important part for me, to be
honest, I loved the training that they gave you. Yeah, so, for me that was the
most important part. Even when you learn something sometimes you forget, you
don’t remember every single thing. Sometimes it will not change your life. But
what will change your life is, as I said, somebody mentally supporting you like the
tutors and mentors.
All participants strongly agreed they would recommend Career LEAP to their friends, family
members and colleagues. 4 were most impressed with the work-placement experience as a
hands-on practical experience, but all specifically valued the teaching approach of the Career
LEAP programme noting that it taught them how to behave when they ‘were actually on the
job and how to approach and interact with work colleagues and customers. They perceived
that they had been well prepared in what to say and what to do. They felt supported by the
trainers, Project Manager and mentors with whom they had developed a strong bond of trust
over a short period of time.
It is different. It’s a lot more hands on. You know I technically was, I suppose, a
student, but I didn’t feel like it. So, I mean, everybody was on the same level.
Like in the workplace, there was nobody higher than anybody else. I felt like I
had actually talked to the leaders [trainers] and the mentors, which I actually
have and I bonded with them, you know.
The role of mentor in work-placement
The mentor was described as being extremely important during placement in 4 different
ways: in helping with work, as an authority figure, working in partnership, and in
encouraging confidence. A number of different ways in which the mentors helped were
identified, including helping to sign in with security in the businesses, collecting the
participants on day one and acting as authority figures to introduce them to other workers,
providing guidance, support and encouragement. Almost all of the young adults indicated
that they got on very well on a personal and professional level with their mentor(s), who
made them feel welcome, supported and part of the team:
I felt as if I was working there all my life.
“For the first few weeks I had work experience they showed you where
everything goes and what to do. … And then by the end of the work experience I
felt confident in that I knew where everything was and I was still learning as I
Among the examples of how the mentors supported participants in the workplace included
explaining and helping with things about the workplace, participating in informal discussions
and providing support, instilling confidence, and helping to compile a ‘to do’ list of tasks
throughout the day.
“When we were looking for things he’d explain it. He wouldn’t get angry when I
forgot where things were or where things went. He’d just take me step by step
and eventually I got it.
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
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The respondents also acknowledged that they enjoyed most working with different people in
their work-placements. They described their mentor and colleagues as amazing, ‘brilliant’,
helpful, nice and approachable.
5 participants specifically acknowledged they fitted in well and worked well with other
workers while on work-placement. They added that they worked well in a team, felt
respected and comfortable in the environment. An additional 3 acknowledged that they got
on very well with their fellow colleagues, and noted that they felt as if they were working
there all their lives.
Work-placement weaknesses
In response to the question ‘
What things did you least enjoy about the work experience’
majority of the respondents highlighted that they enjoyed everything and pointed out that
everything was interesting. Nevertheless, 2 participants mentioned that it would have been
better to have been involved in more work during placement. They acknowledged they
occasionally felt bored, and were standing around waiting for work. One respondent
highlighted poor communication from his manager, and identified that he was not getting
enough information from co-workers, and needed to know what to do.
In response to the question ‘
Where there any setbacks / drawbacks of attending the work
the majority (9 out of 13) identified there were no drawbacks and setbacks.
No there were no setbacks or drawbacks. I actually attended every single day
there. And I was very happy working from the morning to the evening like a
normal employee. It was really good for me to experience all that.
They agreed they enjoyed the full three weeks of placement and felt it was a very good
experience for them. They noted they got a lot of help from colleagues in the businesses and
felt supported. Of the remaining 4 participants who began work-placement but did not
complete owing to external factors (health and family issues), they did not identify any
drawbacks as a result of attending work-placement which accounted for them failing to
complete their placement.
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
Results from stakeholder interviews (business partners)
Key stakeholders in the study (n=15) included representatives from the partnering
businesses, and Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI). All of the respondents were
directly involved in the programme, some through planning and development of the study on
the advisory and management groups, most through attending the CPD training session and
directly participating in the training component with the young adults. Extensive data were
provided and will be discussed in a separate publication. The major themes are summarised
in Table 18 below, supported by illustrative quotations and an indication of the level of
frequency of occurrence in the data.
The responses from the participating business community members concerning their general
reflections on the Career LEAP programme were positive. Respondents used the words
‘innovative’, ‘very interesting’, ‘excellent training material’, ‘positive’, ‘absolutely enjoyable’,
‘unique’, when describing their attitude towards the programme. The majority confirmed that
Career LEAP ran smoothly from their perspective and had a very interesting format.
Table 18.
Summary of major themes from stakeholder interviews (business partners)
Illustrative quotes
High quality
programme - well-
researched material
that matched the
abilities of the group
“Excellent training material, the delivery of the programme
was very well researched, very well thought out”.
Respondent 3)
It was targeted. I mean the level was correct for the
(Business Respondent 14)
Meeting and
interacting with the
participating young
adults during the
training component
“Loved meeting the participants, blown away by them – very,
very strong group. It has been an amazing journey, I feel like
I have been learning for life”.
(Business Respondent 2)
Nature of the
balanced, partnership
approach, unique
I think it opened a lot of doors for people, for the young
people that possibly wouldn’t have been there before. I think
the longer training was a good fit for some people as well. It
was longer than some pre-employment sessions but yet
shorter than a six month training programme. I think that is
a real positive.”
(Business Respondent 9)
Trainer’s delivery
style during CPD
training for
community and
business partners
“Enjoyed programme leader delivery style, and enjoyed
participation of the community. [name] herself is an
excellent, excellent teacher. I really enjoyed the kind of
participative nature of it. … and I also really enjoyed the fact
that they had community people in it as well.”
Respondent 4)
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
Illustrative quotes
Different from other
respondents had
I enjoyed it because it was different. The training methods
and the delivery. … So, I was wondering if it was going to
work and I was wondering what the outcomes would be. It
was really nice to see a different approach. And just from my
own perspective to reflect on my own work to see a different
way of doing things. I enjoyed it a lot. The group had a nice
feel to it. A nice dynamic.”
(Business Respondent 9)
Business community
involvement in the
planning stages of the
programme -
willingness to work
I think getting the businesses involved in the initial meetings
was a really good idea.
(Business Community Respondent 1)
What is unique number one is that you got a number of
companies coming together and sitting around the table.”
(Business Respondent 2)
Collaboration within
the business
community to achieve
greater impact -
having a large
number of business
partners provided
joined up thinking
with everyone
working on the same
“Good to be able to collaborate with other businesses.”
(Business Respondent 6)
Getting a large number of businesses to collaborate together
or to be involved is difficult. ...But to be involved and on
board with the same programme is impressive.
Respondent 4)
“The coming together of so many different businesses- all the
organisations working together on a common goal. It’s a real
opportunity to make a difference.”
(Business Respondent 7)
Academic involvement
in the design,
implementation and
evaluation of the
“Involvement of Trinity has been very good, because they
have been able to bring value to this kind of project.”
(Business Respondent 6)
I love the fact that we had a third level institution, well
regarded, well respected researching the area and providing
materials for the project. Because that has never really been
done before. So to link up business, academia, community.
(Business Community Respondent 3)
Coordination role
valuable point of
contact for partners
“The coordinator role was a great strength in it, because that
person was kind of the link point for everybody: the
community organisations, the corporates, yourselves in
Trinity and Business in the Community. So I think that role is
quite critical.”
(Business Respondent 10)
“I had limited dealings but what I did have with Business in
the Community, the coordination was really good and it is a
fantastic programme and a fantastic opportunity to bridge
that gap with young people.”
(Business Respondent 7)
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
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Illustrative quotes
Personality and
leadership style of the
programme developer
and trainer
“I actually think a key reason why it was going so well was
the personal relationship that [lead trainer] had developed
with the clients.
(Business Respondent 4)
The programme leader was able to build rapport with the
young people and a good relationship with everyone on the
.” (Business Respondent 12)
Is there anything that you would change?
In response to the question:
If you were designing a programme like this for young adults,
how would you do things differently, if at all?
several varied responses were offered. One
respondent noted that it might be useful to have a day just to listen to customers and
explore how to interact with them:
“I might bring them in, for example, if I was doing it again, and have a day listening
to customers ... just listening on the end of telephone lines to customers and how our
staff handle customers who might complain or might be looking for a complex
theory.” (Business Respondent 6)
Another suggested that integrating a diversity of experiences, in addition to work experience,
could enhance the learning outcomes of the programme. Suggestions included doing online
webinars and looking at ways to afford more experience with social media:
“Maybe doing online webinars because basically everything is done online and in
social media.”
(Business Respondent 7)
Two respondents noted that better planning and communication at the planning stages of
Career LEAP would improve the training programme and its delivery:
“Yeah I enjoyed it. The nature of working collaboratively has been challenging and I
guess, you know, as much as you think you have communicated, communicate,
communicate, communicate is certainly a mantra that I will take away from our
(Business Respondent 8)
So in terms of getting terms of reference sorted and governance issues sorted and
communication styles and communication boundaries and all that kind of stuff sorted.
We were under a massive time pressure to get everything done. I think I would
revert back to that project plan piece. I do think we have veered away from that.”
(Business Respondent 15)
The importance of building personal relationships with all of the participants before the
training programme starts was highlighted by 2 respondents:
“So typically, I come from a community development background, so do some of the
other partners, youth and community background, and you’d always ask them what
do they want before you would devise something. And even though you would use
international best practice and everything else you would have focus groups with
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
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them to ask, ok, what do you think would work? And if so does a model like this
work, before you’d actually commit to delivering anything.”
(Business Respondent 8)
I would maybe give maybe slightly more time before the training starts. Just to build
up relationships with the young people involved.”
(Business Community
Respondent 9)
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
Results from stakeholder interviews (community partners)
Data were gathered from key community partners and two assistant trainers who also came
from the community youth work sector (n=5). All of these respondents were directly
involved in the programme from its original conception and design, as members of the
management and advisory groups, and 4 directly participated in the training component with
the young adults. Extensive data were provided and will be discussed in a separate
publication. The major themes are summarised in Table 19 below, supported by illustrative
quotations and an indication of the level of frequency of occurrence in the data.
When describing the programme, community partners commonly used words like exciting,
‘very interesting, good learning opportunity, enjoyable and intensive training programme.
We found that all respondents enjoyed participating in the study. They enjoyed getting to
know the young adults and preparing them to be ‘job ready’, but recognised the amount of
work involved in that task. The academic component of the study was found to be very
valuable and reported as the most important aspect of the project. The strength of the
collaborative approach between the youth workers in different organisations, and with the
business community, in the context of funding cuts for projects within the sector overall was
also reported. The design of the programme was favourably commented on, particularly
‘with a young person in mind. Focused on the needs of the young adults, respondents
identified that the programme was able to match participants’ learning styles and the range
of their skills and preparedness for learning during the training activities and subsequently
with appropriate work-placements. The interactive approach where trainers were patient,
flexible, playful and facilitative of the needs and stages of readiness of the young adults was
noted as being very successful with these ‘difficult to engage’ participants.
Table 19.
Summary of major themes from stakeholder interviews (community partners)
(n out of 5)
Illustrative quotes
Academic involvement
in the design,
implementation and
rigorous evaluation of
the research study
5 out of 5
“To me the strength is the research. It’s the absolute
lynchpin of the whole project.
(Community Stakeholder 5)
“... and I think that having [name] expertise, having
that academic component. Because I have been
involved in a lot of pilots and projects and the value,
to have an internationally recognised institution, the
academic component is an absolute strength of
Career LEAP.”
(Community Stakeholder 2)
“And we’re guilty of it ourselves. We start off with a
big project; we put loads of work in. The first thing
is, it is not properly researched before we start. We
get the young people; they do whatever; no
evaluation. It’s not written up. I mean there is
evaluation, but it’s never written down, so that in a
year’s time if somebody was to go and look for that
project or look at that study, there’s nothing.
(Community Stakeholder 1).
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
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(n out of 5)
Illustrative quotes
“There were three legs to the stool, i) it was an
innovative new way of looking at things; ii) it was
researched fully and iii) a paper was produced and
it was written up. They were the three reasons we
got funding for Career LEAP.”
Stakeholder 3)
Many young people in
the north east inner
city are not ‘job
ready’ and work
placements without a
programme are not
enough to break
down the barriers
“It became much more than we had anticipated at the
start, trying to define exactly what the study should be.
You know, initially it was job placement and whatever,
and then it developed much more when we came to the
conclusion that people weren’t exactly job ready. The
baseline was very, very low, so they actually weren’t
capable of being job ready. So the focus changed to, you
know, from a job placement or working with businesses,
to helping the young people become job ready.”
(Community Stakeholder 1)
Different from other
respondents had
experience with
previously provided
better support in
transition to
“We had tried in the past to find out why young
people didn’t engage with either education or
training. We would have worked with a lot of young
people who are going into training workshops, but
we found that a lot of the time the experience of
the training workshops wasn’t actually a good one
for the young person, because it was just the one
thing and then they were back out there. There was
no follow up. There was no end product, if you like,
because a lot of the young people that we certainly
would deal with they need an awful lot more
support in finding a path into employment or into
education; because they have a lot of, you know,
much more needs than the, what-would-you-say,
the ordinary young person coming out of school
with an education would have. A lot of them will
have dropped out early. They won’t have any
qualifications. And there’s absolutely no home
support for some, no role models.
Stakeholder 1)
Interactive approach
to training
5 out of 5
“I think the uniqueness of it was that it was
completely young person based. The modules were
devised to be interactive, because again going back
to the young people, a lot of them don’t have great
literacy skills, so to have them sitting in a room
writing something for three hours … it doesn’t work.
It needs to be interactive and I think that was one of
the great things about the modules. It wasn’t sitting
down and somebody talking at you. It was you being
part of it all. The sessions I went to, where I saw the
young people in action, they were enthused, they
were an active part of what was going on.”
(Community Stakeholder 1)
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
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(n out of 5)
Illustrative quotes
“There was very much an interactive aspect to the
whole thing and I think that’s very different to what
the young people have been used to up till now.”
(Community Stakeholder 5)
Structured nature of
the programme
social pedagogy,
creative pedagogy
5 out of 5
“Well like I was saying, the objectives, the structures,
the competencies they were trying to develop in the
young people. Having them so well thought out and
each module focusing on one and that was unique.
But yeah. In fact the whole programme is unique
because there has been nothing like it. I mean we do
little ad hoc pieces like I was saying you know.
Working on the CV and talking to people about
interviews and talking on the phone and everything
but it’s not enough. It’s not comprehensive enough
.... normally dropping in and doing one to one with
them. It’s usually one to one. Sometimes it can be
with pairs if people are comfortable with that. But it’s
not enough.”
(Community Stakeholder 3)
Positively influenced
the self-esteem and
confidence of
4 out of 5
“It was a different way, I suppose, of learning a skill,
because I remember one young guy saying to me
that whenever he spoke to people, I thought it was
very funny, he said ‘whenever I talked to people, I
talked to their chest’. And I didn’t get it for a minute.
And then I realised he never lifted his head to speak
face to face. He never made eye contact with the
person he was speaking to, because his head was
down all the time. And even for that one skill, if that
person came out after two weeks knowing ‘if I want
to speak to somebody I make eye contact. I speak
face to face. I don’t talk to their chest’.”
Stakeholder 1)
Professionalism of the
4 out of 5
And then just the input. People seemed to feel at
ease quite quickly within the group which was
great. And that must have been up to the
facilitators I’m sure to a great extent. There was a
nice respectful atmosphere throughout. No issues.
You know, and these people are quite
marginalised.” (Community Stakeholder 4)
Holistic approach to
working with young
3 out of 5
“This is a much broader holistic sort of an approach. I
thought, you know that it was quite interesting. The
first half working on the person and getting to know
themselves and strengths, weaknesses, barriers they
might have, and ways to overcome those things. And
the next part was where they actually get into the
work place. You know that … people are never
actually, I don’t think, taught anything about that,
you know. It was good to do that in the group.”
(Community Stakeholder 2)
Collaboration between
community partners
3 out of 5
“And it was very good to work with a neighbouring
community partner. Since the cutbacks,
networking collaborative pieces have been really
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
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(n out of 5)
Illustrative quotes
squashed. Everyone is inside and working away on
their own. I did enjoy working with [name of
organisation] in a collaborative way, and the
collaboration has continued.”
Stakeholder 2)
Delivered with a
young person in
mind, and from the
young person’s view
3 out of 5
For the community based partners, I think we were
coming from a young persons’ point of view. No
politics, agendas whatever between us. It was just
the reason only which is good. That is an absolute
(Community Stakeholder 2)
Strong support from
the Dept of Children
and Youth Affairs
(DYCA) and the City
of Dublin Education
and Training Board
3 out of 5
“I think the budget. I mean it was great. It wasn’t an
unsubstantial budget. To be fair to the ETB, the
strength was they believed in the project and they
believed enough to put the money in and allow the
experts to go work it out. They did not have a
prescriptive approach.” (Community Stakeholder 2)
Delivered on
Corporate Social
2 out of 5
“So, I absolutely enjoyed it. So anything that is
new, if there is an opportunity for young people in
this area, we’ll support. I found it interesting and
worthwhile from the point of view of the whole
Corporate Social Responsibility.”
Stakeholder 2)
Personality and
leadership style of the
programme developer
and trainer
2 out of 5
And I would say [name] is the kind of glue that
brings all the different things together, but that
bridging of the corporate partners and the young
people and bringing it all together, that was her
strength albeit that there were issues. But there are
always issues with this kind of thing.
Stakeholder 2)
Is there anything that you would change?
In response to the question
If you were designing a programme like this for young adults,
how would you do things differently, if at all?’
, we found positive results with the majority
saying they would change nothing.
To be honest, I wouldn’t do anything any different.
(Community Stakeholder 4)
I actually don’t think I’d do them differently. I really don’t. I think this is very
innovative and, you know, I don’t think I would do things differently.”
(Community Stakeholder 5)
One respondent (assistant trainer) suggested that the training manual could be shortened a
little for people who are not used to this pedagogy, and the duration of the training sessions
could be longer. In addition, the second assistant trainer noted that the timing of the
programme needs more thought in order to avoid holiday periods. More detailed feedback
was provided in response to the question:
In what ways could Career LEAP have been
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
organised better?
4 themes emerged here, and are presented in Table 20. We found that a
lot of goodwill was shown by all stakeholders from both the community and business
sectors. People gave considerable time and effort to the study, and while these were freely
given and people expressed a desire to be involved and to contribute their time, energy and
expertise, they need to be recognised as considerable contributions to the study.
Table 20.
Ways to improve the organisation of Career LEAP (community perspective)
In what ways could Career LEAP have been organised better?
1. Clarifying the boundaries of work and
research, need detailed guidelines to
explain ethical standards of research to all
2. Advisory group meetings could be more
3. More resources in staffing needed, to be
able to liaise with businesses, liaise with
community groups, and in the recruitment
of young people
4. Adjusting different approaches of
communication to further help
Much more clarity about the boundaries in terms
of research and work; some boundaries were
crossed; carifying what each partners role is,
what exactly we are doing, and their our remit in
this study is”.
“Should have kept our Steering Group meetings
ongoing throughout; there were agendas mostly
and these helped people be clear and everything
needs to be circulated”.
Need to be lot more resources; “resources in
terms of staff needed”; “need resources for
helping with delivery and organisation of the
programme; need resources for the reporting on
things, it takes time to give feedback.
Very formal language used in the private sector;
coming to terms with the different languages”;
“the language in research can be complicated
when you see it in writing but we understood it
when [name] explained things to us about ethics
and being objective, and not doing things to
interfere with the research process”; “coming
together with different approaches”.
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
Results from interviews with the project manager
The results from two interviews with the Project Manager are presented below (one
immediately after the programme ended, and the second several months later). The data are
organised in response to guiding questions which underpin the study.
These data reflect an insider perspective on the impact of Career LEAP across the
partnership between community, business and academia. The Project Manager was engaged
in Career LEAP from the very start of the study- he participated in the preliminary planning
meetings, engaged with the community groups and businesses, referred and recruited
participants to the programme, organised work-placements, and provided follow-up support
for 7 months afterwards (he left the programme at that stage and was replaced by the youth
work coordinator). He agreed that he enjoyed participating in the programme, adding that it
was extremely challenging at times as there were significant differences in the language
used by the academics, community groups and the private sector, particularly at the
beginning of the study:
It was very challenging in the sense of even language that is different between
academics, community groups and the private sector. It was extremely
challenging to go round and get consensus in the beginning.”
A very strong Management Group and a separate Advisory Group were identified as among
the strongest aspects of Career LEAP:
“I think it has become a really enjoyable thing. We’ve got a very strong
management group and a huge advisory group too. Loads of different community
groups, businesses and Trinity College.”
Question: Have you been involved in other programmes like Career LEAP?
The Project Manager noted that he had worked on many similar programmes and with
similar groups previously in Ireland, but had never participated in a training programme of
this kind. He identified the Career LEAP approach as being distinctly different owing to its
focus on employment, rather than just on education alone:
Similar, in terms of working with people with disadvantaged backgrounds or
poverty. Different in their approach and maybe the level as well. So, while this
programme in particular was focussing on employment in a holistic way, others
were focussed on only education.
Question: In your opinion, what were the strengths of the Career LEAP programme?
The Project Manager identified several strengths, observing that the variety of partners
involved in the research study design was a unique feature:
I think the strength from the beginning was the amount of people around the
table and the strength that attracted me to the programme to apply for the
position. Everyone was at the table and everyone was there for the same reason,
to tackle youth unemployment and try to come up with a work readiness
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
The openness of everyone and the level of trust that developed over the course of the
programme were also identified as core strengths:
From day one, the involvement of academics and community groups, that was key. I
think the main programme itself, the openness of business and no issue was too big or
too small for anyone involved. And they had a very open attitude to all the young
people, whether it was at the assessment stage, during the training or afterwards. I
think that developed a level of trust between myself and the trainers with the young
The length and part-time nature of the programme was identified as contributing to building
trust with the young adults. He felt that it reduced the pressure and intensity which can be
associated with full time programmes in his experience:
And also, it was because part-time over two weeks, we had time to build that
trust. Whereas I think if we had done it full time we would have had very different
outcomes and we wouldn’t have had as much trust built with the participants. I
think our approach of openness and trust with the young people and the amount
of time we had with them during the training was very strong.
Identifying an uncompromising commitment to quality provision and engagement across all
stages of the programme, the Project Manager regarded the involvement of the private
sector and the opportunity to attend a work placement which offered a full experience of
full-time employment as important strengths of Career LEAP:
Other strengths were having the private sector there and having high quality
placements. I stressed from the beginning that we didn’t just want to have people
photocopying in the back and not really getting a full experience. So I think we
were really able to achieve getting quality placements that were in the core
business areas in companies that had never worked on a programme like this
before and would never have offered work placements for jobs for people from
this demographic background.”
Question: Career LEAP aspired to be an innovative programme. In your opinion, in what
ways, if any, did it make a unique contribution?
The inclusive nature of Career LEAP and the involvement of business, community and
academia, facilitated young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in the north inner city
to experience meaningful employment and in most cases secure a job or undertake a formal
course in education:
I think the big innovation is how we went about it ... and the inclusive nature of
the programme involving all relevant partners. The open approach to everything
provided an alternative progression from the D1 community into businesses that
they wouldn’t ordinarily have opportunities to visit or even have knowledge of. So
I think the real innovation here is our approach of being inclusive and looking for
input from every kind of sector.”
The Project Manager also mentioned the trainers’ approach which was open and honest, He
reported that this approach created a sense of anticipation and interest in who from the
business community was coming in every day:
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
In terms of innovation, the training I think everyone can agree isn’t anything
that’s completely new or ground breaking in the sense of content. But it’s more
about the delivery, how it is delivered and the approach of the trainers and the
approach of everyone involved which contributes in an innovative way. It was an
open and honest and personal approach where no question was a stupid question,
no person had a rank or a position in there. We had business people coming in
from all walks of life. From Heads of HR, lead project managers to every kind of
worker coming in. Once they walked in that door, they were coming in as an
individual and telling their story, answering questions and working alongside the
young people, rather than their position being prioritised.”
So I think by breaking things down and de-mystifying what it is to be a working
person, I think the young people really responded well to that. Then each day it
was a case of who was coming in next ... I think the organisation and the delivery
was definitely an innovative contribution and the final innovation was the demand
that any work-placement that was going to be offered needed to be of quality and
supported in terms of the young people.”
Question: In what ways could Career LEAP have been organised better?
Among the challenges experienced in the course of the programme delivery, the following
were highlighted: need to establish rules and guidelines, and a lack of attention to detail at
the operational phase. A concern was identified that at the very start of the programme a
degree of confusion had arisen from the use of different languages and a lot of effort was
put into arriving at a joint agreement and working through tensions:
I think there was a lot of goodwill at the start but with the goodwill there was a
lack of attention to detail, to governance and putting down on paper rules and
responsibilities for the partners. I think that created some problems and
challenges as we went into more of an operational phase.
Differences in the languages used in each sector were highlighted. As a result, the Project
Manager reported that detailed guidelines needed to be put in place to explain ethical
standards of research, and the challenges of adjusting to different approaches to
communication and collaboration within each sector. The Project Manager added that there
was a need to put greater resources into delivering the programme, particularly in terms of
staffing and liaising with the partners, and in terms of participant follow up:
There needs to be a lot more resources in terms of staff being put in place for the
programme. For example, the role of Project Manager was expected to liaise with
businesses, liaise with community group, recruitment of young people, supporting
those young people, helping with delivery and organisation of the training and
reporting back, make all the placements and all the documentation that was
around that.”
Question: If you were designing a programme like this for young adults, how would you do
things differently, if at all?
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
The Project Manager expressed broad support for keeping the programme as it is, noting the
need for additional staffing:
Yes, I think we would need similar structures to what we have now where you
would have a Project Manager, and a young work coordinator. You would have a
dedicated trainer and a dedicated support person for the client.
He identified the potential for self-interests in a cross sectoral partnership like this, and a
degree of political manoeuvring which could derail the focus on the young people. He
highlighted the importance of keeping them to the fore in future programme deliveries:
I think one of the key things which keeps coming to mind for me during this
whole process is that a lot of the time people lose sight of the young people
themselves, what we are trying to achieve. And a lot of times politics come into
play and territory comes into play, whether it be a community service or a
business focussing on looking at what they get out of it or what comes out of it
from their side, as opposed to helping young people. At every meeting, I have
always taken the duty of care of the young people as my responsibility.
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
Results of interviews with mentors supporting work-placement
While almost 30 people participated in the mentor training programme, only 9 were directly
involved with this group of young adults. Data is reported only from these 9 respondents.
We found a difference between those who had participated in the mentor training
programme (n=5) and those who had not (n=4). Organisational issues and timing meant
that some young people were placed with a mentor who had not been directly involved with
the programme. Of the 4 who did not complete work-placement, 3 were placed with mentors
who had not attended the training and did not receive a copy of the Career LEAP manual. It
is unclear whether this had a direct impact on participants’ ability to continue with the
programme when issues arose in their lives. When asked, 3 of the 4 mentors indicated that
such training would have been very helpful to them in this role.
All reported enjoying the experience but over a third acknowledged that there were
challenges, particularly in terms of balancing a busy working day with the responsibilities of
mentoring a young adult who needed additional support. They found the background
information and profile provided by the Project Manager to be very helpful in supporting
them in this role. All agreed that they received excellent support from the Project Manager.
A number of themes emerged from the data analysis which are summarised in Table 21.
Table 21.
Summary of major themes from mentor interviews
(n out of 9)
Illustrative quotes
The young adults
were well prepared
and used their
training during
6 out of 9
He had two weeks of training. It seemed to help him a
lot. I could not have asked for anyone better to come in,
any better prepared
.” (Mentor 6, Banking sector)
We met them for the first time at the training course and
I have to admit I am a quiet and shy person as well. So
these people came in and it’s the same with anyone. If I
go to a new department tomorrow, I’ll have to go and
introduce myself to everyone. So for me, I’m still nervous
doing that but I’m well used to it now and I’ll do it. When
these guys came in, it was still nervous for all us to meet
them. But it was a hundred times worse for them to meet
us. But I have to admit they were very forward and
welcoming. They told us this is the stuff we learned on
this course. They weren’t acting like robots but they said
‘I wouldn’t normally go up and do this and meet someone
and network so to speak. This is what we were advised to
do’. A lot of them said they were nervous but after that
they were fine
.(Mentor 9, Legal)
I think 100% it made a difference because I was not
involved in their training in the Career LEAP programme,
but when [mentee name] was with me she had a job
interview during her work placement with us here. She
was able to say that the interview skills she had learnt on
the training course, every question that [name of trainer]
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
(n out of 9)
Illustrative quotes
had covered with them through role play, had pretty
much come up in the interview. She said she felt really
well prepared
.” (Mentor 4, Banking sector)
Participants fitted into
the workplace well,
practicing and
developing their
personal and
professional skills
6 out of 9
“ …
as he didn’t have the experience at the beginning, he
waited until somebody told him to do something, but
gradually he was already able to see what he can do
without asking. By the second week, if he was given a
task he didn’t have to ask every step of the way
” (Mentor 2, Facilities)
He was great. Great morale. He was not afraid to ask
questions. We did encourage him to ask questions but he
blended in very well. It wasn’t as if he was here on the
LEAP programme, he was actually part of the workforce.
He gelled very well with the work. Professional skills he
really did not have much. But his personal skills, he used
his own initiative, he didn’t need to be told to do anything
twice. He just plodded away, got along and did what he
had to do
. (Mentor 8, Catering)
Mentors rated
participants on a par
with existing workers
5 out of 9
But I’m telling you, I’d rather work with [name of
mentee] than many of the other people we
already have working for us, with their education.
I said, because it’s not about education, it’s about
your people skills, and his are actually very good
(Mentor 6, Banking sector)
We have had some new starters in, they [the Career
LEAP participants] would be on par with that intake, if not
better. They asked more questions than our employees
(Mentor 4, Banking sector)
I can’t compare him with other people. We would not
have mentored people in the past, just accepted them on
various intern schemes. This is my first time mentoring.
However, I will compare him with other workers. We
outsource a lot of that type of work. Even people who are
on relief work, he is far above the capability of those
people. Brighter, much better attitude. The comparison I
would make is not with people who I have mentored
because I haven’t mentored anyone in this area before.
Compared to other employees we have on site, he is
much better prepared. Good positive attitude with things.
He was a self-starter
. (Mentor 9, Legal)
Enjoyed the
experience of being a
mentor they felt
they had greater
hands on contact with
the mentee and
greater support in
comparison to other
schemes they had
6 out of 9
But I really, really enjoyed it and hopefully they
did too
. (Mentor 3, Catering)
Really felt like a mentor for the first time. Never
understood this role before Career LEAP. Usually
people come and go, and we don’t really interact
too much with them apart from giving them jobs
to do. This was different, really different. Having
to plan and take responsibility to make sure things
An Evaluation of Career LEAP:
A Work-readiness Programme for Young Adults Not in Education, Employment or Training
(n out of 9)
Illustrative quotes
participated in
were right, raised the bar a lot. And I had great
support from HR in here and also from [name of
Project Manager]
.” (Mentor 3, Catering)
Found the handbook
section on mentoring
useful personally
and with colleagues
5 out of 9
Yes. So I took some of that information and shared it
with colleagues. The three interns we had would have
maybe interacted with twenty different people across our
business. So in giving those people a bit of background
and information, I certainly used the Career LEAP
Handbook to give them some understanding of what was
(Mentor 1, Retail)
Responded well to the
CPD training provided
liked the theory
illustrated through
practical activities and
advice. Particularly
enjoyed the active
learning methods.
5 out of 9
I loved the experience and it was really good. I was
apprehensive at the start of it. But when I did the course
with [name of trainer] that was very interesting. And I
could have sat down and listened to her all day nine to
five. Pity it was only a half day. She made it so interesting
and she’d just draw you in. It was very interesting and I
did get a lot out of it.
(Mentor 4, Banking sector)
Different from other
programmes in that
there was a training
beforehand and the
placement was unpaid
4 out of 9
The other really good thing about this programme was
that there was training beforehand. Training in how to
become work ready. You know, it was very commendable
that it was a two week programme. But [mentee name]
came in and he was polite. He was engaging. He was
enthusiastic. Everything that you would want from anyone
that works here at the firm. So, yeah, there were some
similarities with other schemes but there were some
differences, positive differences as well in terms of how
they were prepared
.” (Mentor 2, Facilities)
Need much more
advance notice
ideally 2 months to
get personnel in
place, internet access,
security passes and
clearance organized
4 out of 9
We work in a bank and we have different security levels
and all that so we sometimes require information that we
are required to have. For the next year, for example, it
would be easier when you ask the company what are the
pre-documentation that they need to have for people
gaining access to the different buildings and email, it
would probably make it a bit easier.
(Mentor 6, Banking
Punctuality was an
issue for a third of
participants during
the first week
4 out of 9
They need to learn that punctuality at entry level jobs is
one of the main things that is demanded from them. And
sadly that is the moment where it reflected on the team
as well, showing a lack of respect for the rest of the team,
when you are not coming in to work, or being late
(Mentor 7, Legal sector)
Building a personal
relationship with the
young adults helped
mentors support them
4 out of 9