The Powerhouse Pathway

The Powerhouse Pathway seeks to provide a solution to areas of labour shortage in the Didcot area, especially for entry level roles in areas such as catering, cleaning, office administration and warehousing based on a community approach.

Our community approach will support:

  • Local employers to find and retain the right staff
  • Local young people to gain meaningful employment
  • Local schools to offer progression to all students

I wasn’t doing anything. I couldn’t get an apprenticeship or any sort of education elsewhere because of my grades from school. So I was sat at home for quite a few months doing nothing because no one would take me on. Then someone suggested SOFEA. I came and gave it a go to see how I got on – and I’ve been here ever since. -Sophie, SOFEA employee

Local Labour Market Issues

  • Local employers are struggling to recruit and retain good staff in service industries – hospitality, cleaning, admin, care, facilities.
  • Half the young people in Didcot leave the town for their post 16 education.
  • Below level 3, there is only one provider of post 16 education in the town (SOFEA).
  • Some young people embark on a post 16 course at level 2 with no clear idea of what the outcomes will be and often don’t make successful transitions from that programme.
  • Some young people are not ready for an apprenticeship at 16.
  • Young people, parents and schools do not have a clear pathway available for young people aged 16 for whom full time further study is not suitable


The Law on Post-16 Education

The Law on Post 16 Education states:

‘In England, you can leave school at 16, and you must then do one of the following until you’re 18:

  • stay in full-time education, for example at a college
  • start an apprenticeship or traineeship 
  • spend 20 hours or more a week working or volunteering, while in part-time education or training


The Model

  • One- year programme.
  • Participants will attend SOFEA on Mondays and Tuesdays during term time only. Where they will work on a bespoke learning programme designed and led by the participant, SOFEA and the employer to work on their employability skills, this could include retaking their English and/or Math’s GCSEs, if they haven’t already achieved these, employability skills and work readiness, pastoral support and enrichment activities (sport, art, citizenship).
  • The participant will attend the workplace on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays (year-round, not just term time only, with the exception of annual leave and other statutory requirements in line with their contract of employment).
  • After the one-year programme, all three parties (the employer, SOFEA and the participant) will work towards a positive progression outcome such as a permanent contract of employment with the employer, with a progression plan, or an apprenticeship with the employer (SOFEA will be able to provide a free advice and guidance service to employers on apprenticeships).
  • The employer will have access to free training for their employees to ensure the success of the programme, this could include training on neurodiversity, autism awareness or mental health in young people as examples. SOFEA with work closely with the employer to ensure their training needs around supporting the participant in the workplace are met.



  • Offer a part-time contract of employment (3 days per week / 21 – 24 hours per week) for a minimum of 12 months (fixed term contract / permanent).
  • Aspire to pay the real living wage (currently £10.90 per hour).
  • Have a clear progression path for the participant on entry.
  • Engage with the support programme for the participant (monthly three-way meetings with employer, SOFEA and the participant).
  • Be a Didcot Powerhouse Fund donor.
  • Provide a flexible bespoke programme for each participant.
  • SOFEA will provide a coach for each participant, working closely with the employer and the participant to ensure progress.
  • Regular reviews will be conducted and progression pathways made explicit.
  • SOFEA will work with employers and apprenticeship providers to progress young people onto apprenticeships where appropriate.
  • Work closely with employers to identify the most suitable participants.
  • Work closely with schools to progress young people successfully.
  • Identify and work alongside apprenticeship providers.
  • Providing ongoing support to participants and employers.
  • Develop the programme.
  • Commit to the programme.
  • Sign a contract of employment.
  • Engage with the support programme (monthly three-way meetings with employer, SOFEA and the participant).
  • Immediately alert their coach at SOFEA of any problems that would prevent their progress on the programme.

For more information, contact Ria Poliquin at or 07498 351 055