Face Forward was an innovative three year project in Dorset, Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch, part of the Building Better Opportunities Programme to help the most disengaged 14 -24 year olds move forward and achieve their goals. It ran March 2017 to March 2020 and was funded by the European Social Fund and the National Lottery, through the National Lottery Community Fund. Face Forward worked with over 700 young adults across Dorset who were marginalised from mainstream activity due to personal or circumstantial barriers. Participants were not in education, employment or training or at risk of becoming NEET. 106 of these young people through Dorset Youth Association in volunteering or work experiences.

What Did Face Forward Offer?

This partnership project allowed us to offer a tailored service to each participant.

Face Forward:

  • Provided 1:1 support to set goals and take steps to achieve them
  • Helped members gain self-confidence and life skills
  • Engaged through experimental and practical activities
  • Advised on career and educational options and helped with applications

How Did It Work?

There were four locally focussed engagement teams across the county. Each team consisted of of two Face Forward Apprentices of a similar age to the participants, supported by a Face Forward Advisor and Locality Coordinator. The apprentices provided peer support which was an important part of the process. Dorset Youth Association ran the Volunteering and Work Experience offer for participants. The Volunteer coordinator set up volunteering, work experience and career visits for participants all over Dorset tailored to each individual's aims, interests, skills and geographical location. We supported participants through the process of choosing, applying for, taking part in and evaluating their placements. This formed a vital part of their Face Forward experience, providing many with the confidence and motivation to take the next steps in their journey towards independence.


106 Face Forward participants took part in volunteering, work experience or work shadowing

Those young people engaged in a total of 148 placements

15 consistently attended a placement for over 3 months

30 completed 2 or more placements

3 gained paid employment from their work experience placement

Comments from Claire Gannon - Volunteer Coordinator for Face Forward

Dorset Youth Association has provided youth volunteering services for several years and was well placed to deliver the volunteering offer for Face Forward. I feel privileged to have been part of this programme and to have provided opportunities for so many young people, most of whom had additional needs. Feedback from many of those young people and advisors shows that these experiences were enjoyable and inspiring for most and life changing for some. Whilst those who engaged with placements has very significant outcomes there were some frustrations with participants who were not ready or able to take part due to mental ill-health. Advisors were able to refer participants to other agencies for support with this. The volunteering and work experience element of Face Forward worked so well because of the excellent partnership work, professional and passionate attitude and work practices of Face Forward advisors and the support of the apprentices and peer mentors. The volunteering and work experience provided by Dorset Youth Association is a good model that worked very well and to being hope, motivation and aspiration to many young people. Face Forward provided a vital service to young people, especially those who were vulnerable, isolated and suffering with mental ill-health.

Quote from Face Forward Advisor in Blandford

It (volunteering or work experience) certainly wasn't for every participant, however for the young people who were open to the idea it was an important aspect of their journey. For some participants it's furthest point of independence within the community that they will achieve for a long time; maybe ever. It gave the higher need participants a goal that matched that of employment for the lower need participants. It gave the more ready participants a stepping stone into employment and allowed them to see that they had the ability and confidence to enter the world of work.

Quote from Face Forward Advisor in Poole

Having the option of volunteering really enriched the Face Forward project. I know it has been a massive benefit in helping them move forward in more ways than one.

Quotes from participants

It (Face Forward) has been absolutely brilliant. I thought I was going to get a small job out of it, instead I got a life back.

Life seems to be brightening up. Volunteering is good because you're making a difference and gaining experience at the same time. Volunteering is definitely worth it for the experience and you make a huge difference.

These two days volunteering have been fantastic. I've enjoyed the experience and meeting new people. I also loved travelling on the train as I've not done this for a few years due to my anxiety. it gets me out of doing something. I got to help out other people. Got to go on a train and in a taxi. I loved it all.

The highlight of the Face Forward project for me was the opportunity to volunteer at two different music shops. It definitely boosted my confidence in interacting with people.

It's been a really good. better than anything I expected. I was nervous before I started because it is my first job. This has been great because it has helped show me that I can get on with people in a work environment and that I can get future employment.

I enjoyed doing a beach clean. I felt like I was actually making an impact on the beach. A couple came up to us and said "Well done, thank you".

I've enjoyed keeping the cats happy, making sure they're well behaved. I have made new friends. At the end of the week I feel like this is a calm-down for the week. I feel comfortable when I'm here; it's a good end to the week and I then look forward to the following week.