Back to school to try to find jobs for east Belfast boys

John Veighey, Sammy McAuley and Aaron Curragh who feature tonight in True North: Jobs for the Boys
John Veighey, Sammy McAuley and Aaron Curragh who feature tonight in True North: Jobs for the Boys

A new BBC Northern Ireland documentary will follow three young men from east Belfast as they return to the classroom to boost their chances of getting a job.

In the east of the city research shows that only one-fifth of Protestant boys leave school with five or more GCSEs at grade C or above.

It is seen by some as the legacy of the shipbuilding industry, where boys used to be able to leave school without any qualifications and walk straight into a trade handed down through the family from grandfather to father to son.

With the demise of many manufacturing industries those days have gone.

In today’s east Belfast the True North team talk to Aaron Curragh, who at the age of 14 had moved school eight times.

He did not do his GCSEs and at 16 and after making ends meet with a several temporary jobs, he has now found it impossible to get any work at all.

Another teenager featured in the show is Sammy McAuley, who at the age of 19 has never had a job in his life.

He said being told he wasn’t good enough affected his education, but he accepts that he can’t blame his school for everything and admits he “messed up” quite a bit himself.

Sammy did five GCSEs and left school with C and D grades. Since then, he has struggled to find work.

The third of the jobseekers, John Veighey, left school with six GCSEs, but feels that his education was a waste of time.

He began training as a chef, but was made redundant four years ago and has been out of work ever since.

John feels that foolish behaviour and bad decisions made when he was younger are affecting his future prospects.

Over the course of four months, the show follows the three young men as they take part in a course that could help them open the door to new career opportunities and build their self confidence.

Encouraged by tutor Patrick, they learn how to use the latest 3D printing and laser cutting technology and create a new wall mural for their local community, as well as hopefully gaining a qualification in Digital Fabrication.

The programme was developed in conjunction with the BBC’s Digital & Learning department’s ‘Make It’ project.

The three-year initiative aims to help tackle the educational and aspirational needs of 16-24 year olds in Northern Ireland, particularly young males in disadvantaged areas.

• True North: Jobs for the Boys is on BBC One NI today at 10.40pm.