Youth centre could help level up Aston
published on 25 Jan 2022
Community based projects like 614 Centre in Aston, which help young people gain the skills and confidence they need to find employment, could be key to Levelling Up the country, says The Salvation Army.
Last year the Government announced plans for Levelling Up the country, by allocating funding to address geographic inequalities across the UK. As applications for funding are being made, The Salvation Army is urging Government to think about the value of community projects designed to help marginalised communities develop confidence and skills to find good jobs.
An arts centre for young people may not seem like an obvious part of economic prosperity, but The Salvation Army argues that building confidence in young people is essential to help them take up education, training and employment.
Karac Boldick, a youth worker at the centre, said: “We offer a safe space in the heart of Aston. We welcome children from all cultures and faiths, and we specialise in helping children to express themselves through arts, gaming, sports and music.
“There’s a lot of gang activity and youth violence in the area, and the centre provides a safe place to learn and try new things and gain qualifications such as Arts Awards, including comic book creation, music production, animation, graffiti art and content creation for YouTube.”
The youth work at Aston 614 has partnerships with local organisations including Sports4Kids, Sport 4 Life UK, Birmingham Youth service, and local schools. Karac says: “The centre provides mental health support and partners with the neighbouring local primary school to assist those pupils who may be disengaged.
Head of Pastoral at Manor Park Academy, Jo Green said: “We have worked with The Salvation Army in giving some of our pupils an alternative place to be, where they can express themselves creatively and work collaboratively with Manor Park.”
Around 30 young people attend regularly. The centre is running seven Arts Music Awards and 1-2-1 mentoring, as well as outdoor sports and football sessions. The centre is open to children and young people in the afternoons during term time.
Mikey, (23) from Erdington, attended the centre from the age 14 for five years and has just completed the Arts Award in music. He has also volunteered at the centre and has just began work as an apprentice Kickstarter*, supporting and encouraging children to develop their skills in music and graffiti art.
He said: “I want to do something with art and music and the centre is helping me do that. I wouldn’t be doing music now without the centre.” He reluctantly calls himself ‘a rapper’ and is looking to release his own music. He is also helping children to produce their own music and develop skills in graffiti art.