Career LEAP is a programme that helps young people from marginalised backgrounds in north inner city Dublin transition to the work force.

It has been developed through partnership with Trinity College Dublin and community groups Swan Youth Service and East Wall Youth. 

Many of the businesses are among the biggest employers in Dublin, and the 'work ready' programme has proven successful because these companies are offering opportunities to young people to be part of the company and the young people are taking the chance and taking their first steps on their career path.

Nathan McDonald, from Sheriff Street, took part in Career LEAP. "You don't hear very many good things about Sheriff Street because it's a disadvantaged area to most people, but many young talented people come from Sheriff Street," Nathan said. "Look where I am today. I never thought I'd see myself in Beauchamps, working for one of the top law firms in Ireland."

"If I didn't do Career LEAP, I'd probably still be on social welfare and I'd still be applying for jobs at the moment," he said. Instead he is working in administration at Beauchamps Solicitors on Sir John Rogerson Quay, within walking distance of his home.

His mentor is Paul Clarke, Director of Operations in Beauchamps Soliticitors. Career LEAP, according to Mr Clarke has been mutually beneficial to new employees like Nathan, and the business itself.

"I get to meet enthusiastic, work ready, young people and they get to meet business people in a relaxed, positive environment, and we get to learn from both our experiences.

"I think the key to the whole thing is, you get involved at an early stage because you get to meet the young applicants and you get to mentor them so you make that connection between the local business and the local people," Mr Clarke said. "That's the unique selling point of Career LEAP. 

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A&L Goodbody is a long-time business partner of the programme. Sinead Smyth is Head of Corporate Responsibility.

"We know that there is a high level of unemployment in our local community, particularly among young people and as a large employer in the north east inner city," she said. "We believe we have a social responsibility to help bridge this gap, but it also helps us become a more diverse and inclusive organisation that is reflective of our community."

Career LEAP was developed by Trinity College Dublin's Director of the Arts Education Research Group, Professor Carmel O'Sullivan.

It uses cutting edge educational psychology, occupational psychology, and creative pedagogies to engage young people and build their skill sets. 

There are many similar programmes around the world that are trying to target young people that might not be in education or employment, but they train the young person and they let the person into the businesses.

"Our approach is evidence based," explained Professor O'Sullivan.

"We looked and learned from other programmes all over the world and what we discovered was the businesses need to understand the young people coming in, and the young people understand the business that they are going into. Trinity provides a CPD training programme for our business partners and we've had well over 160 that have committed and participated in that, and it just gives everyone the best chance of success," she said.

Professor O'Sullivan said Career LEAP has had a very good success rate, with many still working with the same employer, progressing along their career path.

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"We have one young man who started in Tesco on placement, and he's now assistant manager in Talbot Street.

"We have others who are with the same company but are moving forwards. It is a career pathway, not just a job. These young people have the skills, they have the appetite, they have wonderful personalities to bring to businesses locally," she said. 

"And the programme just really polishes around the edges both for the young people but also for the businesses. They can connect and work very successfully together," she added. 

The pandemic was a particular challenge for youth services in the community, and Career Leap has been one of the only programmes that has been able to operate and it only does that through the support of local businesses, particularly the Spencer Hotel who provide a venue for participants.

Paul Fay, also from Sheriff Street, was encouraged by Professor O'Sullivan to take part in the programme. "She told me about the big tech companies, that their looking for people so I was thinking about it for a while and I said, do you know what?, I'd actually like to take the Leap."

Paul now works with a big tech firm as a shipping associate. "I look after sending out phones and laptops to new employees and taking back old laptops and phones from ex employees.

"I love going in, and it's literally five minutes away from my house so I can't complain."

He said people don't always see the positive side of his locality, or the talented people.

"That's not the way it should be. I'm trying to shine a light and show that there is a way of getting into these companies. When you think about it, these companies are on our doorstep, and a lot of companies are inviting us in, they're showing that we can be part of their companies."