The School of Hard Knocks is tackling unemployment in Fife

The School of Hard Knocks team, participants, and barbers from Revolution in Kirkcaldy. Pic: Jim Payne.
The School of Hard Knocks team, participants, and barbers from Revolution in Kirkcaldy. Pic: Jim Payne.

A new project is taking unemployed Fifers back to school to help them take their next step forward in life.

However, the School of Hard Knocks is not like other programmes – it is more about scrums than studying.

The social inclusion and development charity has been operating in Edinburgh for some time but this year marks its first in Fife.

The first programme in the Kingdom began in May in Dunfermline.

Over the course of eight weeks the participants have been involved in motivational classes and rugby training, all with the aim of giving them the tools needed to take that next positive step in life.

Taking part in two sessions per week, the group has been learning about teamwork, gaining confidence and picking up skills which should help them secure work.

As well as helping with writing CVs and interview skills, the project also aims to give the participants a more positive mindset.

The course culminated with them receiving two qualifications – the SVQ Level 4 in Employability Award and the SVQ Level 4 in Community Achievement Award – as well as taking part in a special rugby match.

Officers from Police Scotland, which has helped the charity secure funding to run the course, travelled to Dunfermline Rugby Club last week to face off against the School of Hard Knocks group in a final match.

But the school’s time in Fife is not now coming to an end.

For the charity has secured £42,000 of funding from the Robertson Trust to continue the project in the Kingdom and will be looking to expand into central Fife later in the year.

However, to do this it needs further financial support.

Rosa McInnes, the programme manager, explained that the funding has to be used in Fife.

“I’d like to deliver a course in Glenrothes later this year,” she said. “But we need to find enough money to make it happen.

“I’ve found that the local community has got so on board here in Fife.

“Lots of people have been receptive and want to help.”

The School of Hard Knocks took on 26 people for its Dunfermline course.

Of those, 18 graduated last week.

And there are numerous benefits for those who have taken part.

“Generally, we are getting around 60-70 per cent of people into work as a result of the course,” Rosa explained. “That’s the main outcome.

“A lot of these people are long term unemployed and wondering what to do next.

“But we also measure people’s happiness, confidence and how much exercise they are getting.

“We usually see a huge increase.”

Alistair Collie from Dunfermline was among those who took part in the first course.

He had been involved in agency work for the last few years but became unemployed at the end of February and noticed the advertisement for the School of Hard Knocks while at a meeting at the Job Centre.

“It’s helped,” Alistair said. “Confidence-wise, as well.

“My fitness has also improved – since I started I’ve lost two stone.

“And from week three I’ve been more positive too.”

Praising the School of Hard Knocks, Sergeant Caine McIntyre, Cowdenbeath community sergeant, said: “This project has seen huge success with many of the participants making big strides forward in their lives towards achieving new goals.

“This amazing course could not have been achieved without the brilliant facilitators from The School of Hard Knocks Charity, employability support from Sky Dunfermline, inspirational visits from Fraser McKenzie and Murray McCallum from Edinburgh Rugby and lastly the generosity of Mark Reynolds of Revolution Barbers in Kirkcaldy.”

Sergeant McIntyre added: “I have been fortunate to have met and worked with the participants over the last eight weeks and would personally like to thank them for the contributions they have made and wish them well with their future endeavours.”

To learn more about the School of Hard Knocks and the benefits of taking part, visit the website https://www.schoolofhardknocks.org.uk/.