Around 20 years ago, a number of male suicides in Callander over a short period of time poignantly highlighted an acute lack of opportunities for young people in the area.
The Callander Youth Project was set up to react to that need and offer not only recreational facilities, but something for young men and women in the area to get involved in.
When the opportunity arose to buy the local hotel in 2011, CYP turned it into a youth hostel, deciding to use the venture to create an inclusive environment where young people in the area could receive a comprehensive training in the hospitality industry.
CYP now uses hospitality as a vehicle to get young people in the Callander area ready for mainstream employment, using the framework of the Scottish Government’s Employability Pipeline.
“Young people can present themselves to us at any point in their lives, at any stage of the pipeline,” managing director Chris Martin explains.
“If the young person finds themselves at stage one, we can offer them an activity agreement. Stage two, we can offer volunteering opportunities for young people. At stage three, we work with SCVO on Community Jobs Scotland.
“We offer apprenticeships at stage four and stage five at hospitality level two or level three, depending on their aspirations. We can also offer business admin, customer service etc.”
“We found that utilising Community Jobs Scotland has been beneficial to us. It offers young people opportunities to work, get their first job, who wouldn’t necessarily be employable in the mainstream.”
Steps to Work is CYP’s employability programme, an 80-hour, SQA accredited programme. It is divided into a 40-hour course in personal development – working on emotional intelligence, working with other people, self-reflection – and a 40-hour work experience module.
“We’ve had some cracking placements, we try to be as person-centred as possible and young people have gone on to great destinations. One person did a work experience module at Perth Raceyard and now he’s at Newmarket, training to be a jockey!”
“We start with the young person in mind. The careers service obviously do a fantastic job out there, but in terms of the universal approach you can offer only so much capacity.”
Giving young people stewardship over projects and planning is a central tenet of the CYP philosophy.
“I feel empowerment is so key to what we do. Giving young people ownership gives them both responsibility and the opportunity to step up. We have three supervisors just now, who take on the role of running the hostel, the café and the events package.
“They’re tough shifts, you start at seven in the morning – they’re on call seven days a week and they run the show.”
Chris also works to ensure that the young people at CYP project a positive image of young people in the community, both through intergenerational work and through project which benefit the community as a whole.
“A lot of professional people come here to retire, and young people can sometimes be seen as a nuisance.
“I think perceptions have changed. The gardening project we did where a 13-year-old boy worked with adult volunteers to do some planting in raised beds definitely helped with that.
“There was also a dilapidated local bus shelter that the council were going to remove but there was resistance from the local community – Greener Callander got together with us to coordinate skills and together we’ve launched a mural on the bus shelter, painted by the young people.
“There’s a lot of positive things that the young people are doing in the community that can change perceptions.”
Chris also helps put young people at the heart of CYP’s strategic decision making process: “We have our board at CYP, but we also have a youth forum which feeds into the board.
“The national park has emulated that and we’ve got three young people on the national park board to provide a youth advisory service to the senior board, which is great.
“I think we need to think about as adults how we facilitate our boards, and whether we’re an environment conducive to supporting a young person. Where do we meet, what time do we meet, who’s on the board? We’ll encourage [board members] to ask themselves these questions before they take a young person onboard.”
CYP’s enterprise revenue is roughly split into three streams: hostel accommodation, an onsite café, and room hire and events.
The hostel benefits from being situated at the entrance to the Loch Lomand & Trossachs National Park – a popular route into the Scottish Highlands for tourists.
Beds start at £18.50, with private rooms available for £60 a night, with the hostel bringing in a gross profit of around 80%.
The hostel is CYP’s primary source of enterprise revenue, and its success allows Chris to subsidise other areas of the organisation.
“The café, if I’m honest, just about washes its face – but it creates employment opportunities for young people, which I think is really important.”
CYP also benefits from a large function room, which can be booked out for private events such as birthday parties or music nights. CYP has also started hosting weddings, which has significantly added to its profitability.
Currently, enterprise activity makes up around a third of CYP’s total income, but there are plans to further diversity their sources of income – again, tailored to the success of the hostel.
“The hostel provides a market for the café, which is quite positive, and one of the newer ideas we’ve got is to offer activities and outdoor tourism.
“We’re upskilling four young people over the next three years to become canoe instructors, mountain bike instructors, walking tour guides, so that our hostel guests can come and have a suite of opportunities available to them.
“This also offers young people the chance to start their own micro businesses, potentially, and stem the outward migration of younger people from the national park.”
“We found that utilising Community Jobs Scotland (CJS) has been beneficial to us,” Chris said, speaking of the Scottish Government initiative run by SCVO.
CJS creates work opportunities within the third sector in Scotland for unemployed young people. The programme has a specific focus on vulnerable people who find themselves with significant barriers to work.
“It offers young people opportunities to work, to get their first job – young people who wouldn’t necessarily be employable in the mainstream.”
Chris takes issue with the perception that taking in young people through the CJS programme is ‘free labour’, stressing that if these young people are properly looked after, they can blossom into highly motivated and productive members of staff.
“In terms of ownership, we find millennials will really take advantage of the opportunities that are afforded to them. They’ll raise their game if you give them free reign and they’re not micromanaged.
“If you offer them opportunities to empower themselves, I really think young people in your workforce will take them.”
I feel empowerment is so key to what we do. I feel giving young people ownership gives them both responsibility and the opportunity to step up. It really makes me proud – giving these young people opportunities and seeing them step up.