Care Leavers Shadow an MLA for a Day

Young people from Aiming Higher with Members of the Employment and Learning Committee
Young people from Aiming Higher with Members of the Employment and Learning Committee

TO MARK National Care Leavers' Week young people from an innovative employability-mentoring programme spent a day work shadowing members of the Employment and Learning Committee at Stormont.

'Shadow an MLA Day' aims to highlight the importance of providing diverse work experiences opportunities to young people in or leaving care. The initiative coincides with a UK-wide campaign aimed at encouraging agencies to work in a more coordinated and effective way in order to meet their obligations toward young people in care.

As part of the day young people from Aiming Higher, a Business in the Community and Include Youth partnership project, spent the day shadowing members of the Committee and learning about the work of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

'Shadow an MLA Day' was launched at Parliament Buildings on Wednesday. Speaking at the event, Chairperson of the Committee for Employment and Learning, Robin Swann MLA said:

"I am delighted that the Employment and Learning Committee has the opportunity to host the launch of this innovative, and quite unique, initiative – Project 100 – Shadow your MLA Day. It was a great opportunity for the Committee to meet with some of the young people who have been working with Business in the Community and Include Youth through their Aiming Higher project. Members of the Committee got to spend some time with the young people yesterday during our work shadowing day and on behalf of the MLA's I can say that it was an enjoyable experience."

Paddy Mooney, Director at Include Youth, said:

"In Northern Ireland one in three care leavers leave school with no qualifications and are at greater risk of both becoming and remaining unemployed. This is why it is so important the agencies responsible for supporting young care leavers do all they can to help inspire them into the workplace. We know from our work with young people that when given the right support, they can and do achieve really good employment outcomes. We are very grateful to the Committee members for this opportunity to develop the young people's awareness and understanding of their role and hope to see even more MLA's taking part next year."

Claire Gordon, Director of Community Programmes from Business in the Community NI, adds:

"We are delighted with the support our member businesses provide through Aiming Higher. Supporting disadvantaged young people by sharing skills, knowledge and business acumen helps to improve lives and makes a lasting difference. The MLAs involved are commended for their leadership in raising awareness right at the heart of government."

Aiming Higher is funded by Big Lottery Fund NI and is aimed at enhancing the employability of care experienced 16 to 21 year olds in or leaving care through the support of business mentors.

Aiming Higher's Project 100 is a call for every young person coming through the care system to have a valuable work experience opportunity. On 3 December, a short conference will take place at RADAR - Northern Ireland's first fully interactive, safety and life skills education centre – where research investigating the challenges care leavers face when trying to enter the world of work will be launched. Organisations will be inspired to get involved and see how their business can benefit from supporting those coming through the care system into employment.


Media enquiries: For more information contact Sharon Whittaker, Communications Officer at Include Youth, on 028 9031 1007 or email OR Helen Bowman, Communications Manager at Business in the Community Northern Ireland, on 028 9046 0606 or

Notes to editors:

  • Following a joint briefing about Aiming Higher by Include Youth and Business in the Community NI to the Employment and Learning Committee in January 2015, Committee members agreed to participate in Shadow an MLA Day to coincide with National Care Leavers Week.
  • On Tuesday October 20th young people on Aiming Higher participated in a full day's work experience with Committee members.
  • On Wednesday October 21st Shadow and MLA Day 2015 was launched by Employment and Learning Committee Chair Robin Swann.
  • For more information about the work of Business in the Community visit
  • For more information about the work of Include Youth visit