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Project changed lives and inspired young people

Since its inception, the Amaze Yourself project run by the University of Bradford has helped change the outlook and aspirations of hundreds of people.

Initially funded by the European Social Fund in 2006, the scheme ran for six years and offered Bradfordians the chance to engage in a process which would enable them to meet successful local business owners, develop and pitch their own business plans and gain valuable skills in how to run a business.

The most recent iteration of the scheme, funded by the Building A Stronger Britain initiative, began in 2019 and offered 18-24-year-olds from low socio-economic backgrounds across the city the chance to broaden their horizons through a series of remote workshops with mentoring from local businesses.

Six such programmes ran in 2019-2020 and now senior leaders have described it as an outstanding success. Some 46 people from 14 different postcodes started the programme, with 41 finishing.

Eleanor Clyde-Evans, Associate Director for Engagement, said: “The challenge in the city of Bradford is the low levels of participation, low aspirations and low attainment amongst the target audience. With Bradford having the fourth highest proportion of under 16s in England [Office for National Statistics, 2018], it is important young people recognise the support that’s available.

“There was a significant shift in attitudes of those who attended, with a 19 per cent increase in individuals believing they could now be successful. There was a belief among a significant majority there are limited opportunities in the area. Survey results showed a 16.5 per cent increase in positive responses once the programme finished.”

Perhaps one of the most rewarding shifts came in participants’ attitude toward higher education, with some initially fearful of even venturing onto campus.

Eleanor said: “They believed they would be judged and not accepted. These young people were talked around and came to the university to present their business ideas. After the visit, the young people’s thoughts were disproven.”

Three businesses were visited, including Bread and Roses and Café Liza, while the winners won a trip to MyLahore and a day at the Crystal Maze Experience, both in Manchester. A fourth programme was due to take place in March but was suspended due to the Covid19 outbreak.

One participant said: “I have gone on to enrol at Forster College. I then hope to progress on to an access course to get into university. The trip to Manchester in January helped me make these decisions, thanks to the one-to-one support and guidance I was given.”

At least six participants have found work and have credited the support received on the course and additional skills learnt. Financial support for future programmes is actively being sought.