How Can Welsh Business Help End Homelessness for Young People?

Mark Willmore from Llamau argues the Welsh labour market can pre-empt the risk of homelessness by giving more young people a first job.

In June this year, Welsh homelessness charity, Llamau, launched the #MyFirstJob campaign, asking people to share what their first job was and how it helped shape them into who they are today. Head of Learning, Training & Employment for Llamau, Mark Willmore, looks back on the campaign and shares his thoughts on how the Welsh labour market can build back even better than before Covid-19. 

I’m sure it won’t offend anyone when I say I was genuinely surprised by how successful the #MyFirstJob campaign was back in June this year. 

By lunchtime on the day of its launch (Thursday 3rd), #MyFirstJob had been trending most of the morning and reached more than a million people. 

Vast numbers of people shared their #MyFirstJob stories with us across social media, including End Youth Homelessness Ambassador, Michael Sheen. The most popular first jobs seemed to be paper rounds and shoe shop assistants but we also came across a few unique ones too – gravedigger being one. No judgement here! 

The backing the campaign received was an incredible show of support from the Welsh (and some further afield) public, with a number of businesses coming forward to express their interest in offering work placements for the young people we support. Objective achieved? 

“Young people who enter employment at an earlier age and build up a bank of skills, such as confidence and good communication, are much less likely to go onto endure a future of homelessness.

Yes and no. That day, and a few following, the conversation definitely stirred up a desire to help young people from both businesses and individuals.

But I feel we still have a fair way to go to ensure we’re doing as much as we possibly can to ensure that the next generation benefit from the experiences employment offers. 

To shed some light on why I’m talking about offering young people employment when I work for a homelessness charity: it is a fact that young people who enter employment at an earlier age and build up a bank of skills, such as confidence and good communication, are much less likely to go on to endure a future of homelessness.

Employment helps to shape our values in life. 

It makes us curious and drives ambition, and most importantly, it gives us purpose. 

Interestingly, it feels as though the Covid-19 pandemic has put the people behind Welsh businesses in the same metaphorical boat as the young people we support at Llamau.

Gofod i drafod, dadlau, ac ymchwilio.
Cefnogwch brif felin drafod annibynnol Cymru.


If you look at the Coronavirus as a form of immense trauma, which has rooted itself into the core of something good and taken hold of it by spreading torment, fear and feelings of the unknown, the outcomes are the same as when a traumatic experience such as abuse, bullying or homelessness grips a young person.

It is debilitating and all encompassing, and now it’s what we all have in common. 

The trauma I’ve described here is what can plague young people we support everyday, but that doesn’t mean they are any less creative, charismatic or deserve less of a chance to succeed. 

“Young people with complex needs such as experience of care, the criminal justice or childhood trauma are disproportionately represented.

We understand that the Coronavirus pandemic has severely dented Welsh businesses and we will all feel its burden for years to come. But I’d like to propose to Welsh business owners that they use this commonality they now have with a marginalised group of young people.

Use it as a way to connect with young people, creating job opportunities for them across a labour market that could be very mundane without them. 

Right now, nearly 50,000 young people in Wales are not in education, employment or training.

The consequences of this include long-term unemployment, poverty, poor physical/mental health, and increased risk of offending, substance misuse and homelessness.

Young people with complex needs such as experience of care, the criminal justice or childhood trauma are disproportionately represented amongst this group. 

Those same young people are creative, resilient and tenacious individuals. I know because we they show us every day at Llamau.

They are also eager to learn, have interesting ideas and stories to share, and they have ambition, just like the rest of us, but they also face multiple barriers that other young people do not. Those barriers often stand in the way of them being offered equal employment opportunities that could spark their passions in life and pave the way for the future they deserve. Those are barriers that have been further exacerbated by the pandemic, but also barriers that we can help them break down. 

In a post-Covid world, we must do more for young people, starting now. 

Josh is a young man we’ve been able to support at Llamau. Being able to work has helped Josh to learn so much more about himself and his future. Please take a moment to watch Josh’s story and recognise how you could help more young people like Josh to build a life and career they love.

If you’re a small or large business owner and can support a young person into employment or to learn more about the working environment through placements, site visits or mock interviews, please get in touch with us at [email protected] or

All articles published on the welsh agenda are subject to IWA’s disclaimer.

Mark Willmore is Head of Learning, Training and Employment at Llamau, the Welsh homelessness charity.

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