LYDIA Masseron is traineeship co-ordinator with Swindon-based Green Labyrinth, a Government-backed education and training organisation for young people, many of whom don’t have the formal qualifications required to enter the workforce. It is appealing for employers to join a new work experience scheme

“I’VE always been passionate about social justice,” said Lydia Masseron.

“That’s probably what motivates me. I don’t like it when people – especially young people, who’ve got their whole lives ahead of them – are written off.

“They’ve got so many skills and talents that just don’t fall into the curriculum subjects.”

Originally from North London, Lydia is the daughter of a teacher and a lecturer.

She studied philosophy at university and worked in a newspaper accounts office before having children.

Lydia began a career in education a decade ago when she became a teaching assistant. Her duties at Green Labyrinth, which she joined last summer, include teaching English classes.

Her personal ethos makes for immense job satisfaction at the organisation, which was founded in 2010 by Stephanie Warren and Bryan Davis.

“They started it off from home. They just felt young people weren’t getting the opportunities they deserved in Swindon.

“Obviously, academically there are schools and colleges catering for students beautifully, but it was the less academic students who’ve got other skills and qualities – they’d both previously worked at colleges and wanted to set up something aimed at those students specifically.

“They just wanted to provide better opportunities for them.

“There used to be so many career paths for kids who weren’t academic. They’ve got other skills and abilities – they’re fantastic. They’re better at hands-on jobs.

“They’re bypassed and it’s really unfair because they have just as much potential but it’s in other avenues.

“You go to university and you need a first, and now you need a post-graduate doctorate and this, that and the other just to do a basic job.

“That’s crazy. Not everybody was born to sit in a classroom.”

The organisation initially specialised in arranging apprenticeships, easing the often complex administrative processes for employers. Later, it began offering classes in English, maths, workplace skills and other disciplines such as preparing CVs. Classes are held in the town centre and there are currently about 28 young people on the books.

The total number of clients helped over the years is well into three figures.

“We’re given a lot of flexibility,” said Lydia. “The students often say, ‘Oh, this isn’t like school.’

“We’re given a lot of leeway to make the education we provide student-based, not curriculum-based.

“We can teach a lot of things, such as teamwork, social skills, things which help people in the workforce.

“A lot of students these days have anxiety issues because of the pressure put on them with all the SATS testing and GCSEs, and some of them really don’t cope with it.

“We don’t put any of that pressure on them. It’s all done through encouragement and at their own pace. It’s all student-centred.

“We reiterate that their exam results don’t reflect who they are.

“They’ve got other skills that might not be reflected in their exam results.

In its latest project, Green Labyrinth invites employers in all sectors, large and small, to offer work experience. “Only students who are ready for that kind of responsibility will be put forward. It’s going to be like a dating agency,” she sdaid.

“We’ll match them up – what the employer is looking for and what the students are looking for, and it will be rigorously monitored.

“They’ll have something to put on their CVs. They’ll have work experience, they’ll have somebody to provide a reference.

“Work experience will also help the young person to decide whether that’s the job for them, because not many people know what they want to do when they’re 16.

“We’re hoping to get employers on board to give them some that experience, maybe only two days a week for 10 weeks, maybe 12 weeks.

“We’ll sort out the paperwork – the employers really have to give only their good will and their time. We’ll take care of everything else. It won’t cost them anything, but if they buy their trainee lunch that’s great by us!”

Young people usually come to Green Labyrinth on the recommendation of their schools, but there are other routes.

“If they don’t enjoy the course they’re doing at the college, they’re not sure what they want to do and need someone to help them progress to the next level, they might come to us.

“We have quite a few students joining us later on in the term. They can’t go on to another college course because they’ve missed the first bit, so they come and join us to decide what they’re going to do.

“We’ll give them work skills, functional skills and training until they really figure out what it is they want to do.

“Then they can go on to a college place, an apprenticeship or – now - they’ve got the chance of a traineeship, which is quite a nice stepping stone.

“The motivation of the whole company and the people who started it is to change the landscape as best they can for young people in Swindon.

“Everybody who works there is on board with that. We all want to make a positive change and to give these kids the opportunities they deserve.”

Lydia can be contacted at