Support from START to Finish

AN EMPLOYABILITY programme for 16 to 24 year olds in the Poleglass, Bangor and Lisburn areas has seen 43 young people achieve 241 accredited qualifications between them in just six months.

The START Programme, which has supported 85 young people with their education, employment and training needs since formation in April 2013, is a partnership programme consisting of Include Youth, Northern Ireland Alternatives, Lisburn YMCA, Youth Initiatives and Challenge for Youth.

To mark the end of the second phase of the programme participants, staff, family and friends came together for an evening of celebration and farewell at the Belfast Mac on Tuesday 24 June.

Speaking at the event Maureen Brannigan, 21, from Poleglass and involved in the programme through Youth Initiatives said:

"Before I came on START I was a full-time mum. I wasn't confident about my future and I didn't really see myself achieving any educational or social goals because I didn't know how to get there. I left school with one GCSE and became a mum. I had been out of education for so long I felt it impossible to go back. But the nature of the programme is amazing; it caters for everyone's needs and makes you a more open-minded person who wants to challenge yourself.
"There's enthusiasm from all the staff, who really believe in you and make you want to be there and get involved. The banter from day one has been class and I've made friends for life. I've had the opportunity to do things I'll never get the chance to do again. I feel confident enough now to complete courses that will help me gain entry to university."

Becca Delo, 23, a young mother from Lisburn, found days at home very long before joining the START Programme, she said:

"I used to count down the clock from seven in the morning to seven at night before joining START.
"This programme shocked me into doing something; it's different to anything I've done before. I have completed qualifications in SAGE accounting and I am applying for admin and finance posts so I can get some experience as an assistant.
"They paid for my childcare throughout and I can't express how grateful I am to START and for all the opportunities I have been given. No one understands how much this has meant to me, it has been an amazing life changing experience and I wish I could do it over again and again."

Andy Robb, 22, involved with START through NI Alternatives in Bangor, enjoyed meeting young people from across the three sites and looks forward to moving on to study hospitality and catering, he said:

"I've made new friends and met people from different backgrounds and stuff, which has all been pretty amazing to be honest. I worked away at my qualifications and had the opportunity to do my Essential Skills English and ICT, as well as lots of other training opportunities. Everybody has supported me from start to end, it's just been amazing."

Dearbhla Holohan, START Programme coordinator from Include Youth, said:

"Through the programme the young people have obtained qualifications and had some amazing experiences, but most importantly they have gained confidence, self-belief and a sense of knowing who they are and where they are going in life.
"This programme works so well because every part of it, personal development, mentoring, qualification, active learning and diversity is underpinned by a youth work approach, where each individual young person is placed at the centre and sessions are tailored around them.
"As we commence recruitment for our next phase of the programme, I wish the young people who are moving on from this phase a very successful future in the various paths they have chosen to take."

START is funded by the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL), through the Collaboration and Innovation Fund (CIF). If you are interested in joining the next phase, email or call 028 9031 1007.


MEDIA ENQUIRIES: For more information contact Sharon Whittaker, Communications Officer at Include Youth, on or 028 9031 1007.


  • Young people on the second phase of the START Programme gained 241 accredited qualifications and 39 other certificates, including Essential Skills in Literacy, Numeracy and ICT, CIEH Level 2 in Health & Safety at work, OCR Level 2 Award in Bookkeeping and Accounting Skills, Open University Level 3 Starting with Maths module, IFA Level 1 in Football Coaching, for example;
  • Follow us on Twitter @STARTprogramme, like our Facebook page TheStartProgramme or visit to find out more.