Future Bright, a free career coaching and support service, delivered by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), is being extended from 1 March following a successful pilot.
Future Bright has already helped over 2,000 people across the region with one-to-one support from a professional career coach. Over 1,000 of those have entered training and at least 600 have increased their income.
Ahead of Careers Week (1-6 March), WECA has announced that it’s investing £3.6 million to extend the scheme to support residents develop the skills that businesses and employers need, to help the region’s recovery.
Future Bright offers coaching and support to people in work and receiving benefits or tax credits, supporting them to learn new skills, develop their career and increase their income. The pilot scheme was funded by the Department of Work and Pensions and delivered by the West of England Combined Authority in partnership with Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire Councils.
To make sure that Future Bright can support those who need it most, the scheme has been expanded to those aged 18 and over and to those who are earning below the real living wage.
West of England Mayor Tim Bowles said: “Helping our residents get the skills they need to keep and find well-paid jobs is at the heart of our plan to secure the region’s economic recovery.
“Future Bright is giving residents in the West of England the confidence to adapt, learn new skills and seize new opportunities during the pandemic and is helping them develop the skills that our businesses need for jobs now and in the future.”
Business owner Robert and his wife and business partner heard about Future Bright through St Paul’s Learning Centre. They wanted to grow their business as graffiti artists and increase their income to support their growing family. Robert worked with career coach Karen to develop an action plan to improve their business processes and improve their marketing.
Robert said: “Future Bright has been a massive help to us. We knew some of the changes we wanted to make to the business but didn’t have the funds or connections to make it happen. The changes we’ve put in place have given us extra time, improved our skills and our branding, and brought in new business.”
The business is going from strength to strength and Robert now plans to convert the business to a social enterprise so that they can invest in the community as they grow.
Kim from South Gloucestershire has worked as a jewellery maker and tutor for 17 years and sent up her own teaching studio a few years ago. The coronavirus pandemic hit her work and earnings hard and social distancing made running face-to-face tuition challenging. She found out about Future Bright online and was matched with career coach Chris to work on an action plan.
Kim has developed online courses that she can run while face-to-face tuition is more limited and is feeling more positive about the future. She said: “My entire experience with Future Bright was friendly, supportive and non-judgmental. My career coach Chris took the time to listen and asked questions to make sure he understood my aims and barriers. Chris and Future Bright were flexible, accessible and responsive throughout the coaching journey.”
Self-employed yoga instructor Lindi Lu, from Bath, had to adapt quickly when lockdown meant moving her teaching online. But with an old laptop and webcam, she felt stuck. Then Curo housing association put Lindi Lu in touch with Future Bright. She worked with her career progression coach Carol to develop an action plan for her business and identify funding to help with new equipment. Now Lindi Lu is teaching yoga online to a growing audience and is confident about her plans for the future.
Lindi Lu said: “Talking to Carol encouraged me to think about my business long term and create a plan on paper. Carol also helped me see that there are lots of people like me working on our own striving to grow our businesses. Now I’m feeling more positive, hopeful and excited for the future.”
Led by the West of England Combined Authority and the Local Enterprise Partnership, £9.4m has been committed to supporting the Regional Recovery Plan taking WECA’s total investment in businesses and skills to over £100m over the next four years.
To find out more about the Future Bright scheme visit: https://www.westofengland-ca.gov.uk/future-bright/.