Meet Aspire: Christina Rofique, Head of Youth Services

I worked as a job centre coach for 16 years, initially in Birmingham and then in Witney. My last role here was as the young person’s work coach, supporting 18-24 year olds into employment.

Whilst working at a job centre, I once met a young man who felt utterly defeated, with no options, no support and no future in sight - at just 19 years of age. I knew there were many reasons why he couldn’t progress into work, but with a caseload of over 100 people, I didn’t have the time to work with him and address his barriers fully.

This led me to think that I needed to be in a role where I could build a trusting relationship and create a personalised support package for young people like him. I needed to work for an employer who was forward-thinking, innovative and allowed me the freedom to create whatever was needed for people in this young man’s position.

I feel passionately that all young people should have the right to choose their own future and be supported to get there. I feel passionately that it ‘takes a village to raise a child’ and that, as a community, we have a responsibility to our young people - to guide, support, educate and care for them, until they are ready and able to care for themselves.

I always knew that I wanted to help people and did a work experience placement with teenagers with learning difficulties when I was 16. My own personal experience growing up is part of why I feel so strongly about the young people we work with - I wasn’t prepared to be written off as a young single mother, and was determined to attend university and be able to provide for my child.

My Aspire journey began in November 2015 - just as a new support worker role to provide support to young people aged 18-24 was introduced. The Unlocking Potential project followed shortly after and has grown to such an extent that we’re now a team of 6, supporting young adults across Oxfordshire.

Aspire’s work with young people has expanded to include the Our House project in Witney, providing affordable housing to enable progression into work while building independent living skills. We have just launched the Kickstart scheme with Aspire as a Gateway organisation for employers to recruit young people and are also working closely with Oxfordshire Youth to support the delivery of the new Young People’s Supported Accommodation service.

Joining Aspire has allowed me to see the whole picture. Here, I’m able to provide comprehensive support to all young people I work with, take the time to know all the details and understand each and every unique, complex barrier each young person is facing.

I have recently joined Aspire’s Senior Management Team, and look forward to being involved in some important, strategic conversations to ensure that we continue to aim our support in the right direction and consider the needs of young people across all education, training, employment and housing support projects.

Visit our Unlocking Potential page to explore how Aspire is working to support young adults out of education, training and employment.