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Supporting young people in Dundee for over 40 Years

Helm is always open to conversations about ideas, new opportunities and partnership working. Helm is happy to adapt core programmes where possible and is keen to work with other organisations to create bespoke opportunities led by the evidenced need and circumstances.

Get in touch with us to discuss possibilities and to explore the potential of joint funding by emailing

Becky shares her story from lavish lounge to having her own business

“Before starting at Helm, I struggled a lot with anxiety and self-confidence. Once I was enrolled in Helm, I quickly took notice of how everyone was treated equally, regardless of their background. I soon went from engaging in group activities to gaining qualifications in Helm’s beauty salon. The staff at Helm have been very attentive to my needs through helping me with my confidence and encouraging me to reach out for support with my anxiety. I’ve gained friends, skills, experience and a sense of control over my future from Helm.”

Becky came to Helm in August 2023 after her school recommending it to her. She wasn’t sure what her next steps should be but when she found out about Helm’s beauty salon she knew she wanted to attend. Becky began by working through the life skills in Helm and this helped her to settle in, make friends and build her confidence. After a few weeks she felt ready to start learning in the beauty salon, where she undertook lots of practical work such as eyebrows, eyelashes, nails and facials. She also visited a couple of the care homes Helm works alongside to do treatments on the residents and she found this very rewarding and a great way to learn customer service skills. Becky continued to work hard and gained her qualifications in Contemporary Eye Treatments, and Beauty Practical Skills.

Becky decided to start her own business so set up at home while still attending Helm. She reached out to the hair salon she attended herself as they had a treatment room. Becky now runs her own salon from this room and says the hair salon have been very supportive and helped to promote her treatments.

“Helm really do have everything you need to move into the working world. I actually don’t know where I would be right now without Helm. When I started at Helm I really struggled with anxiety. I was terrified to start Helm as it was a whole new environment, but I knew I needed to push myself. I thought about the future and knew I wanted to get over my anxiety and start my own business and Helm supported me to do this. They helped me get counselling and worked on my confidence a lot. I didn’t realise how determined I was until I peeled back the anxiety and realised, I am confident. Helm’s support made me realise I am better than I thought I was. The anxiety used to define me but now I know I am so much more than that.”

Becky is continuing to run her own business whilst also attending mental health counselling and further beauty courses. She is really enjoying being self-employed and is excited to see where her business takes her. 

“I finally feel like the best version of myself. I know I can take the skills I have learnt from Helm and run far with them.”

matthew’s journey at helm’s trade unit

“I received lots of support and encouragement from everyone at Helm. Through the support I received it made me realise that joinery is what I want to do as a job”

Matthew came to Helm in January 2023 as he was determined he wanted to work within the trades industry but was unsure of what options were out there and how to reach them. From the beginning all instructors reported that Matthew was very focussed with excellent time keeping and attendance. Matthew engaged in various aspects of Helm, including life skills, employability skills and the trades unit.

Derek, Helm’s Trades Instructor, told us “Matthew was a pleasure to work with. He always got stuck into the job and was keen to learn using his creative skills. He participated in so many different areas of trades, including making planters and birdboxes, building the new decking at Helm’s allotment, and plastering within the trade unit.”

After some time at the trades unit, Matthew began to practise the exam for the CSCS card and quickly managed to pass these before sitting the official exam in April. This gave him additional experience and confidence which would help to make him stand out from others in when applying for jobs. Helm helped Matthew to seek a work placement, and one was secured at Alpha Projects, a local employer. After 5 weeks on placement, Alpha Projects employed Matthew as an apprentice joiner as they were so impressed with his work.

When asked about his time at Helm, Matthew told us:

“I came to Helm as I wanted help to get a job and improve my employment skills. At the trades unit I learnt how to use and look after tools, as well as the health & safety side of construction. It taught me to listen to the instructors, measure accurately and take pride in my work. Helm gave me the support I needed to build my confidence and showed me the importance of good timekeeping and attendance. I now feel more confident and feel I can move into the world of work with the skills I need.”

Matthew has now been in his apprenticeship for over 6 months, and he is thriving. Using the transferrable employability skills and the trade specific skills he learnt at Helm, he has continued to impress Alpha Projects and he is proving to be a great asset to their team.

Well done Matthew, we are all so proud of you!

Alec shares his journey

“Without Helm I wouldn’t be who I am today. I wouldn’t have had the opportunities and building on my people skills has been life changing.”

Alec came to Helm in April 2021 after leaving school and having no ideas about what to do next. A family member recommended Helm to him, so he decided to give it a go. At first, he struggled with poor attendance and timekeeping, however the team worked alongside Alec to show him the importance of these. Alec worked on his SQA qualifications before attending Helm Autocare because he showed an interest in cars. Alec mentioned this is where he felt he turned a corner and really began to get stuck in to learning and working on his people skills.

Helm’s mechanic, Malcolm, worked closely with Alec to ensure he gained a wide range of automotive skills, as well as general transferable skills such as communication, teamwork and numeracy. Malcolm noted that “Alec worked hard and would do whatever needs to be done in the garage, even when it’s quiet he would rather tidy or clean up than sit about.” Alec progressed into a work placement where he continued to flourish and show he was committed to learning and working hard. He left Helm in September 2021 having secured full time employment as a warehouse operative.

A few months later, Alec saw a job advertised at Kwik Fit and instantly knew he wanted to apply. He reached out to Malcolm who provided him with a reference. Alec was successful and began his role as a tyre fitter. He used the skills he learnt from Helm, and the team could quickly see he was very good with the customers so began to give him more responsibility. One year later, Alec is now the Assistant Manager at Kwik Fit, and thoroughly enjoying every day.

“Helm is universal but also really tailored, and staff took my skills and personality on board when with working with me. I didn’t have a CV before coming to Helm, but they helped me create one, showed me what employers look for and even secured a work placement for me which was a great opportunity especially in the height of Covid when this felt even more limited. I achieved qualifications and people skills at Helm.”

“My best part about being at Helm was meeting all the staff. I didn’t have great skills at speaking to other people, but staff really supported me, and it didn’t feel like they were just doing a job, they really built a relationship and invested in me.”

Craigtoun hospitality project

For ten weeks, Helm worked in partnership with Craigtoun Country Park and Families First to deliver an innovative employability pilot project for young people in North East Fife who were struggling to access education and employment through traditional means.

The pilot was held within Craigtoun Park on Tuesdays for seven young people and helped them gain practical life skills including catering and hospitality. Throughout the programme, Helm saw significant growth in young people’s confidence as well as improvement in their mental health and wellbeing. By the end of the pilot, young people’s overall wellbeing improved by an average of 27%, their self-confidence by 27%, and their ability to speak to other people by 50%. Prior to participating, they found thinking about the future stressful. After, they reported seeing positives in their future and have identified their personal skills and strengths. When asked whether they would rather do the programme in a college or community centre, the participants said they’d prefer to be at Craigtoun Park. They liked the peace and quiet and enjoyed being in the cafe and kitchen. One young person even spoke about learning more about gardening and different types of birds.

Parents of the young people commented that they’ve seen significant changes in their children throughout the pilot. One noticed an improvement in her son’s mental health and wellbeing. Another parent has seen immense improvement in their daughter’s confidence and self-esteem. One participant now hopes to do a mechanical maintenance course through Helm after not knowing which direction they’d like to take in the future.

When young people were asked what they enjoyed most about the project, young people listed baking, cooking, making burgers, brownies, pizza, tray bakes, spag bog, tacos, key lime pie, using the tea and coffee machine, cleaning, following a recipe, measuring, chopping, teamwork, communication, leadership, modelling, getting more involved, being independent, and helping each other.

The project highlighted that meeting the emotional, social and wellbeing needs of young people is as vitally important as skilling them with work-based experiences and practices. Professionals working with young people have evidenced an urgent need to offer them additional opportunities urgently, to strengthen them for their future, to engage them and show them what they are capable of, that they have value to offer the workplace and make a good standard of living for themselves.

According to Children & Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, children and young people have the human right to the best mental health possible. They have the right to be mentally fulfilled, and when they aren’t they have the right to access the information and the help they need. But we know the coronavirus pandemic and measures taken to combat it have had serious impacts on the mental health of children and young people in Scotland. 39% of 11 to 24-year-olds have reported concerns about their mental wellbeing, and 32% of UK 16 to 24-year-olds report feeling overwhelmed by panic and anxiety every day.

Ally Calder, Chief Executive at Helm said: “The project at Craigtoun Park has been a fantastic way for local young people to interact with their peers and gain vital life skills that will help them on their journey into adulthood and employment. Sadly, the Covid pandemic and the lockdowns have impacted significantly on our younger generations, they’ve lost nearly two years of their lives which are normally vital in gaining social and life skills they will need in the future. Helm recognises that now is the time to look at new and innovative ways to support young people so they don’t become a lost generation and this project at Craigtoun Park has been a great way to build the confidence and skill set of young people.”

A survey was conducted throughout the programme with young people, park visitors and employability stakeholders. 97% of survey respondents said they would be in favour of Craigtoun Country Park opening a training and educational centre for young people to learn new skills such as catering, hospitality, events planning, horticulture and gardening.

Ally Calder, Chief Executive at Helm said: “It is clear there is an urgent need to provide better support for young people from North East Fife. We’ve observed significant growth in the young people who participated over the ten weeks of the project and it is only the tip of the iceberg. We are now seeking funding to continue the project in Craigtoun and hope to return soon to provide life-changing support for local young people.”

Arbroath beautician project

In early 2023, Helm worked with Angus Council and Angus Housing Association to pilot an alternative employability pathway for young people in Arbroath who are interested in a career in Beauty, but face barriers to attending training through traditional means. Over the course of eight weeks, Helm’s specialist Beauty Instructors delivered two blocks of taster sessions for seven young people in Arbroath.

Over the course of four sessions, participants learned basic cosmetology skills such as how to give facials and manicures. Each young person had their brows done by one of Helm’s specialist Beauty Instructors, exposing them to more advanced cosmetology skills whilst building relationships with them. The final session allowed the participants to put their newfound skills into practice, giving residents of the sheltered housing complex manicures and hand massages which they thoroughly enjoyed. One resident said: “I’ve really enjoyed this pamper today, it’s good that young people get this kind of opportunity, also it’s important for young people nowadays to get these opportunities.”

The young people’s confidence grew significantly throughout the project. One participant noted that it made her realise how good she was at beauty. As well as reinforcing their desire to build a career in Beauty, they reported that it also expanded their horizons within the industry by exposing them to different skills and experiences. She said about the project: “I really enjoyed myself at the beauty taster course and it definitely gave me an idea of what kind of beauty route I want to go down as well as learning the new skills and techniques you showed me.”

Following the taster blocks, five out of the seven participants came to Helm’s in-house Beauty Learning Centre to continue their training. All five gained vital Cosmetology qualifications, and our Beauty Team secured funding for them to go on to complete  further beauty courses at Faith Elder Beauty Academy (the founder of which used to attend Helm).

Jan Phillip, Awards for All Support Worker at Angus Council said: “I thought the taster course was a great way of introducing young people gently to a group, being in Arbroath is much easier for Angus young people to access and less daunting. The girls were able to get to know the staff from  Helm as well as others on the course, which is always a big barrier. Once relationships have been made it is always easier to support young people to move onto the next step with the same provider again this is a huge benefit.  The staff at Helm are always so welcoming and flexible, and ensure young people feel safe, looked after and invested in. Staff also provided me with positive feedback about my young person which I relayed and made a huge difference to her confidence giving her a positive boost.”

Ally Calder, Helm’s CEO said, “It is fantastic to see young people in Angus engaging with this pilot project and progressing on a pathway of further training at Helm and beyond. It goes to show how vital alternative pathways to employment are. After such a success, Helm is exploring funding options that will allow us to continue this project in Arbroath.”

Montrose art therapy project

Helm currently supports young people who are experiencing difficulties with their mental health by providing an Art Therapy service internally. We received funding to roll out this service and the Art Therapy group in Montrose was created due to a lack of support for young people in Angus area.  Referrals were received from the Angus Opportunities For All 16+ team, schools, and Barnardo’s.

One key aim of the project was to support young people who were not engaging in school or training with a view to establishing relationships with the young people who are in most need and are currently not ready for traditional employability engagement.  An additional but equally as important aim of the project was to build on the young people’s confidence and create a safe space for them to be able to share their worries and their own narratives and support each other in their journeys. 

The project was delivered over the course of ten weeks and two sessions were delivered per week. Every group member was given a sketch pad to use along with various paints, pens, and pencils. This was a safe way to begin their creative journey in the groups. Each member took their sketch pads home so they could continue their work after the groups. Some group members used created to think about their inner and outer representation. This was a helpful exercise in thinking about how they feel internally versus how the outside world sees them which was particularly useful in supporting them to think about their gender and sexuality. At the end of the sessions the young people asked if they could take their work home, along with a sketch pad each and some of the art materials they used in the sessions, so they could continue to express themselves. They quickly learned that they could use the sketch pads to safely sketch or write down their thoughts. 

The morning group organically grew into a quiet and reflective group which was incredibly supportive. Each member showed good attendance and were supportive of each other and their stories. They began to build relationships and open up to each other. After attending two sessions one young group member was able to attend on her own for the first time. This was a huge step for her because she suffers from social anxiety and has not been to shops, school or even any of her friends’ houses without support from her family in a long time. The other group members praised her for attending on her own and within the safe space and containment of the group she was able to verbalise how this felt. One young person said: “It was a nice place to be for a few hours, I got to know different people that I would not normally be in a group with, it has helped my mental health and I would be keen to attend a similar course in the future.”

The afternoon group had a quite different feel. It was livelier with lots of laughter and storytelling. Group members created their own rules which included a group decision on background music. Once again, the attendance from this group was very consistent. Week after week everyone attended, a fact Helm feels is particularly noteworthy given most young people involved in the sessions experienced mental health struggles and disengagement from other services. The group helped the young people gain confidence with relationship building and self-esteem. Once people got to know each other, they began to show good attendance in the group. One young person said: “I felt very positive about it every time I went in, although the very first time I went in I was very anxious about seeing new people and the communication I’d have to do. But that all went away by the second visit.” 

Baseline evaluations were undertaken by each group member in the first session and another at the end of the 10 week block. It became clear that each member had gained confidence and had felt supported by attending the group sessions. One referrer commented at the end of the project that “this has been a positive experience as we have witnessed our young person being excited about the project and wanting to turn up every week, so I highly recommend this provision to support increased engagement and improved mental health for young people.”

All the young people asked for the group to continue and wanted sessions to go on for longer.  Helm recorded the following outcomes at the end of the project:  

60% say that they are now feeling more optimistic about the future
60% say that they are more interested in other people and feeling sociable
40% say that they have been dealing with their problems better
40% say that they are interested in new things
60% say that they feel more confident
60% say that they feel more cheerful

Ally Calder, Helm’s Chief Executive, says: “A recent research report by the Mental Health Foundation found that nearly all young people aged 18 to 24 years (86%) had felt anxious in the previous two weeks and for over half (58%), this had stopped them undertaking day-to-day activities. These are shocking statistics and its vital that we prioritise the mental health of our young people who are at risk of becoming part of a lost generation due to the impact of Covid lockdowns. Our onsite Art Therapist already provides a significant level of support to Helm’s young people and we were pleased to have the opportunity to roll out the service with this project to support young people further afield in Angus. We hope to be back in the area again soon with new, innovative projects.”

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Helm has been supporting young people aged 15 to 25 years, in Dundee, to gain education and employment, for over 40 years. As a grassroots organisation we have maintained our connections with communities as we have grown to work across Tayside.

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