A scheme set up in Didcot last September to support young people into employment is gaining recognition from employers and participants.

The Powerhouse Pathway, a partnership between Didcot charity SOFEA (South Oxfordshire Food and Education Alliance), The Didcot Powerhouse Fund and local businesses, was founded to address a labour shortage in entry-level roles for young people aged 16 and over in fields including catering, office administration, warehousing, and cleaning.

SOFEA works closely with employers to identify a suitable young person for each role.

The chosen individual is then offered a paid, part-time, one-year contract for three days per week, working an additional two days at SOFEA.

During this time, they are provided with a tailored learning programme covering employability skills and GCSE retakes where necessary.

Throughout their contract, they receive full support from SOFEA.

The aim of the Powerhouse Pathway is to offer its participants progression; the employer may propose a permanent contract or apprenticeship at the end of the initial contract.

Nando’s in Didcot was an early participant in the scheme.

Ria Poliquin-Floyd, the pre-apprenticeship programme manager at SOFEA, said: "Nando’s has been such a fantastic partner for our Powerhouse Pathways programme.

"From their central employability team to the individual restaurant managers and staff, everyone is fully invested in working with us and giving our disadvantaged young people the opportunity to develop their employability skills and, more crucially, build their confidence."

One of the pre-apprentices at Nando’s in the Powerhouse Pathways programme, Joe Black, said: "Working for Nando’s is so much fun and my team is so supportive – we all look out for each other.

"One of the best bits of my job is that you get a free meal with every shift you work and after five years, we all get a sabbatical – can’t wait for that.

"I’m enjoying learning new things and progressing into new roles at Nando’s.

"I wouldn’t be doing any of this without SOFEA and Pathways – I’m so grateful for everything that they do."

Local secondary schools have praised the Powerhouse Pathway for providing an appealing route into employment for their students.

Elizabeth Paris, the chair of The Didcot Powerhouse Fund, said: "The aspiration for the Didcot Powerhouse Fund is to create more links between business and the community than just funding.

"Powerhouse Pathways is just such an example, and directly responds to concerns raised by local employers about the difficulty of recruiting locally for entry level roles."

More information about the scheme is available on The Didcot Powerhouse Fund's website.