Young unemployed people from the Isle of Wight, Southampton and Gosport have seen their prospects start to improve thanks to the work of UKSA and funding from the Department of Work and Pensions.

UKSA has an 81% success rate in moving young people into education, employment or training through their back to work programme. This compares very favourably to the government’s Back to Work scheme, which in its first year only got 3.5% of participants back to work and now has a rate of 13%.

UKSA won a tender bid for the funding, which is enabling the charity to run six programmes across the South of England. Aweigh Ahead, UKSA’s six-week part-residential course, combines on-water experiences with work experience in the local community.

Importantly, participants find the healthy routine and positive environment of UKSA raises their aspirations, motivates them and gives them qualifications to enable them to seek work. They are all offered one-to-one mentoring and support, and careers guidance as part of the programme.

Simon Davies, Director of Youth Development and Fundraising, said: “We are delighted to have received this funding to give even more young people the chance to change their lives on the Aweigh Ahead programme.

“What we do is pretty special and unique, using water as the catalyst for change. We know it works, as we have weaved this magic formula for many years now. It is of huge importance to break down the barriers that appear to exist between young people and employment, and we welcome the chance to help as many people as we can to do just that.”

Case studies from the recent Isle of Wight programme:

Brad Parrett, 18, went to Sandown High then the IW College to study art and design but dropped out as his life spiralled out of control. By his own admission he went downhill. He starting drinking and taking drugs then left the family home, and spent months sofa-surfing with nowhere permanent to live. He moved into Spectrum Housing’s The Foyer over a year ago and remains there today, but he knows there is more to life. He said: “I started trying to sort my life out, I didn’t want to live like this anymore and wanted to make something of myself. A friend told me about how UKSA had helped her, so one day I just turned up and asked for help and I’m pretty glad I did. I was a bit sceptical at first, mainly because I didn’t like the water, but really it was because I wasn’t used to it, because now I love being out on it, it’s good for me. It’s made me more confident, as half the stuff I have done here in a week I had never done before in my life. I loved kayaking, powerboating, swimming in the pool, swimming in the sea, I didn’t ever have the chance to do that before. Now I want a career in watersports as I think I would love it. The people at UKSA have inspired me, it is a great place with a really different atmosphere and after my first week of residential I just didn’t want to leave.”

uksa brad



Damien Ely, 18, went to Medina High School but couldn’t remember what results he got. He tried a couple of courses afterwards but didn’t stick to them and ended up signing on. It was through JobCentre Plus that he heard about UKSA’s back to work programmes. He had never done anything like it before so he attended a selection day for Aweigh Ahead. He was accepted on the programme and was pleased as he had enjoyed fishing before and liked being on boats – although had never considered being on boats as a potential job, just as a hobby. The maritime industry was pretty much unknown territory. Just a week into the six-week course he became much more interested in starting a career, thinking about options such as harbour master or working on water taxis. He said: “I’ve already picked up some stuff I didn’t know before and I can see a change in myself, so I think the next few years will be exciting, I just want to work on the water. I’ve been three or four months on the dole but life is now starting to look brighter.”

uksa damien


David Ely, 20, is Damien’s brother. He had a run of bad luck as he was laid off from his first two jobs, and also tried the IW College and a recruitment/training organisation, but a number of setbacks led him to JobCentre Plus. He applied for the UKSA course to give him more experience and thought the sailing and watersports element was a real bonus as he enjoyed fishing and likes being out at sea. He is now looking to train as an instructor as his dream is now to work abroad and see the world.

uksa david


Barry Lawrence, 23, tried really hard to do the right thing when he left school. He did his A Levels and then BTECs and looked to access higher education, but by concentrating on his studying left him, by his own admission, completely lacking in work experience. He explained: “I have been a student for a good portion of my life and I thought it was the right thing to do, but I was lacking in experience and that prevented me from finding work. It was really disappointing.” Barry heard about the UKSA courses and thought if nothing else it would give him some different life experience and build his confidence. He said: “I never really had the desire to do sailing or watersports but already the course has made me more determined to get a job because of everything else it offers. I’ve been unemployed for so long but I feel this will help build me back up again.”

uksa barry


Jamie Collins, 23, was originally from the Middlesex area and spent a year window fitting but moved to the Island with his family, and since then has had a few casual jobs. He wasn’t convinced the UKSA course would be for him but when he arrived he thought it looked fun so he was pleased to get accepted. He said: “Everything about UKSA has surprised me. Everyone’s so friendly, it’s just a really good environment to be part of. I’ve done kayaking and powerboating, all new experiences. At the moment there’s such a lot of information to take in, I don’t know what the future holds.” It’s certainly given Jamie something to think about.

uksa jamie