Disengaged school pupils 'thriving' at technical training centre

RUTS is helping young people boost their confidence and future prospects by learning practical skills.

A leading training centre working to prevent students who are disengaged with school from falling through the cracks insists there is “no wrong path” for young people choosing the next step.

The Rural and Urban Training Scheme, or RUTS, in Penicuik helps young people aged 14 to 24 to gain practical skills and qualifications through hands-on activities like non contact-boxing and mountain biking.

It’s designed for pupils who may not have a great attendance record, do not enjoy school or suffer from confidence issues.

RUTS chief operating officer Alison Nimmo said: “A lot of the young people who join us, maybe they’ve not attended school or they’re not interested in school, but doesn’t mean they’re not capable, they’ve got many skills to offer.

“There is no wrong path, and there’s great opportunities. RUTS can help young people to gain something when they might think they’ve not achieved anything at school. You absolutely can, always aim high.”

The centre’s operations manager Iain Bell has worked with the charity for 16 years and sees first-hand the difference vocational training can make for some pupils.

“They get treated as adults when they’re here,” he told STV News. “It suddenly makes them realise they are a young adult and they’re in an environment where we don’t treat them like kids anymore.”

“The things that we offer are different to school. Saying to them, ‘you’re going to fix motorbikes’ or go mountain biking, it’s a great catch for the kids.

Leo and Nico say RUTS has helped boost their confidence

“A lot of them have disengaged from school. It just means that type of learning hasn’t worked for them and it’s not that difficult for education if its done in the right way that suits them.”

Since RUTS was founded in the 1980s, it has worked with schools across the Lothians to identify the needs of young people in the community and help them overcome barriers, enhance skills, gain qualifications and achieve their potential.

Leo Young and Nico Maben, both 17, have been coming to RUTS for a while and have built their confidence working with motorbikes and preparing to apply for jobs.

“I didn’t enjoy school,” Leo told STV News. “I was never in. Then my PSE teacher told me about coming here to work with bikes.

“I like working with my hands. It’s helped me with my confidence.

“I was quite shy when I first started coming here. Next, I want to do a car spray-painting course.”

Nico has found help with IT skills particularly useful.

“I wasn’t that good with applying or sending away forms or making a CV. I really struggled with it.

“But when I came here I got help from the workers here. I want to go into joinery or get into a a trade.”

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