New programme aims to boost job prospects for care experienced young people

A pioneering new programme has been launched to improve career opportunities for care experienced young people in Devon.

Devon County Council and Exeter College have worked in partnership to develop the PACE (Positive About Care Experienced) programme with the aim of creating a ground-breaking business network dedicated to working with young people who are, or have been, in the care system.

The scheme is designed to help employers feel confident in their ability to support care experienced young people and to commit to working with the County Council and Exeter College to remove barriers that they might face.

Evidence gathered by Devon County Council suggests that those in the care system are facing significant challenges in finding suitable employment and training across the county.

Last year in Devon, 25% of children in care over the age of 18 and around 35% of care leavers were not engaged in education, employment or training.

Employers who sign up to PACE will be offered regular training days throughout the year, delivered by a team of County Council and Exeter College staff. The training covers a wide range of subjects including recruitment, inclusive employment, mentoring, apprenticeships and grants and funding.

The first 20 employers signed up to the programme took part in the initial training provided at the launch event at the Future Skills Centre.

Among those who attended the launch event was Jake McClure, from the UK Health Security Agency, who has previously employed a care experienced young person as an apprentice. Jake said:

“PACE is such a great project to advocate for care experienced young people. My own experience of employing a care experienced apprentice was beneficial for both parties; he was passionate and a very capable talent; and we were able to support him to progress upwards into the business.”

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Economic Recovery and Skills, said:

“We recognise that more needs to be done to improve opportunities for our care experienced young people in Devon and this is just the beginning of working with Exeter College and local employers to ensure that happens. A lot of work has gone into developing this programme and I’ve no doubt that everyone who takes part will see the value that care experienced young people can bring to any organisation.”

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Devon County Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for children’s services, said:

“The great thing is that young people have been fully involved in the development of this training by telling us about their own experiences of entering employment, and the difficulties they’ve faced. We take our role as corporate parent extremely seriously and this new PACE programme reflects that, and it will ensure that our care experienced young people are given the training and employment opportunities they need for a successful future.”

Mike Blakeley, Director of Apprenticeships and Employer Engagement at Exeter College, added:

“Exeter College values any opportunity to positively engage with our community across Devon. The support of care experienced young people has never been more critical. The PACE project brings together a number of businesses from across our employer network who want to provide employment opportunities to this group.

“This is a unique programme developed with Devon County Council, that will place the young people’s needs front and centre of the recruitment process. The collaboration with our DCC colleagues has shaped a superb and motivated partnership. We are excited to be supporting these young people on their career journey.”

For more information about the PACE programme email  or