Unemployed youngsters are being helped back to employment with the support of a not-for-profit education and training firm.
Caerphilly-based social enterprise GoConnect runs regular courses aimed at boosting the confidence and skills of people aged between 16 and 35.
Since it was founded in 2013, it has helped people improve their prospects and in one case even helped an aspiring entrepreneur into the world of business.
Just over three years ago, Sarah Gurmin, 27, from Blackwood, found herself out of university with a Masters’ degree, but was struggling to get a job.
She was recommended to attend a 12-week GoConnect course funded by Cwm a Mynydd Rural Development Plan programme for Caerphilly County Borough and Blaenau Gwent – and it changed her life.
Sarah now runs a community-based gaming centre called SavePoint on Blackwood High Street.
She explained: “The course gave me the confidence to know that I have the skills to go where I want to go and to develop my own ideas.
“It gave me a good framework to build on and help and advice on how to run a business and where to go for funding.”
During the 12-week course, Sarah and a group of other participants came up with the idea for SavePoint – a community group running gaming sessions.
Together with GoConnect it ran several events and it was soon decided the fledgling project could develop into its own community interest company.
With the help of GoConnect founder Alun Prosser and education training manager Keiran Russell, SavePoint successfully applied for a lottery grant to rent premises in Blackwood for a permanent venue for it to run.
SavePoint opened its doors in August last year and Sarah hasn’t looked back.
She said: “Our focus is on providing a space for like-minded gamers to get together and socialise. We are predominately about video games, but we have plans to expand into board games and card games.
“We are looking to get the shop recognised as an official tournament store for card games.”
GoConnect’s education training manager Keiran said : “For me, it has been amazing to see Sarah progress over the last three years.
“She has gained lots of confidence and leadership skills and I’m really happy to continue my involvement with SavePoint.”
GoConnect Founder Alun said: “We have built an excellent reputation in supporting those furthest away from the labour market.
“We have a strong network of community partners who support our programmes’ engagement.
“We take pride in fully involving the community in the design, development and delivery of our projects and programmes and this has helped us build excellent contacts with local government and council services.”
GoConnect was formed in 2013 and is based at the Welsh Innovation Centre for Enterprise (Welsh ICE) and provides support to unemployed youngsters across south Wales.
The social enterprise aims to address the digital skills shortage in Caerphilly and the surrounding valleys, as well as tackle high youth unemployment.