About Step Forward

Step Forward is an award-winning apprenticeship programme in London for young people.

It was formed in 2013 by leading social integration charity, The Challenge.

The job market today is harder than ever for young people. 55% of employers claim that school leavers don’t have the soft skills needed to succeed at work and 44% of positions are filled using personal networks. With skills shortages present in major industries The Challenge decided to use its mission to improve the situation for both young people and employers.

Apprenticeships are the perfect way for young people to acquire technical and soft skills, providing a cost-effective source of young talent to employers. There is a perception that apprenticeships are only for bricklayers and beauticians or for those that are not academically talented, but modern apprenticeships give young people a choice.

The new Apprenticeship Standards that the Government has launched were created specifically to be more suited to day to day working tasks and nurture the skills needed for a certain role.

As part of The Challenge’s mission we welcome applications from people from various backgrounds and abilities and take equality and diversity very seriously.  Our diversity statistics reflect this, with above average figures for BAME, free school meal and female students. Mountains of research prove that diverse groups in the workplace improve innovation, productivity and creativity and this benefit is passed onto our employers, and nurtured amongst our apprentices.

We also enable opportunities for our apprentices to mix with people from different backgrounds and place a focus on developing professional and soft skills at regular weekend ‘challenges’.  We believe this will create confident, well-rounded young professionals that will be highly employable and valuable to their employer.

As all of this runs alongside training and work we require a big commitment from our apprentices but we believe that the benefits they gain are worth every moment.

To support our apprentices along this journey we provide a mentor for each apprentice and provide access to impartial, external groups such as My Mental Health, Brook Advisory Services and the National Careers Service.

This not only takes the strain from their shoulders but also from their employer. They can feel confident that we are comprehensively supporting their employee’s development so they can focus on their core role, and that their apprentice will add value as quickly as possible.

Our Mission

Step Forward’s purpose is to build a bridge from education to employment for growing numbers of recent school leavers from all backgrounds.

The Challenge design and deliver programmes that bring people together to develop their confidence and skills in understanding and connecting with others.

Step Forward Responsibilities


The Challenge believes that it is unacceptable for a child or young person to experience abuse of any kind and recognises its responsibility to safeguard the welfare of all children and young people.

Whilst we keep all information confidential, if we believe you or others may be at risk of harm, we may have to pass some information on to others. We would always let you know before we do this.

We recognise that:

  • The welfare of the young person is paramount
  • All young people, regardless of age, disability, gender, racial heritage, religious belief, sexual orientation or identity, have the right to equal protection from all types of harm or abuse
  • Working in partnership with young people, their parents, carers and their agencies is essential in promoting young people’s welfare.

Types of abuse and concerns:

  • Physical abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation (CSE)
  • Neglect
  • Self harm
  • Bullying/harassment
  • Domestic violence
  • Forced marriage
  • Radicalisation/terrorism
  • Female genital mutilation (FGM)
  • Honour killings

If you are worried about any of these or anything of a similar nature whilst on the programme contact your Mentor or Tutor/Job Coach or Email stepforward.safeguarding@the-challenge.org.

PREVENT & British Values

Step Forward takes seriously its Prevent duty to protect our apprentices from indoctrination in any form of extreme ideology which may lead to the harm of yourself or others.

We are committed to helping prevent people from being drawn into violent and non-violent extremism which can create the conditions conducive to terrorism, and popularise views that may lead to terrorism.

All of our staff are trained to be vigilant for spotting signs of extremist views and behaviour, and to report anything which may cause concern. Equality and diversity are core to our mission and pervade everything that we do. We place a strong emphasis on ‘British values’, the common values that all communities share such as self-respect, tolerance and democracy.

We work hard to broaden our apprentices’ experience, and to prepare them for life and work in our society.  Vigilance over our apprentices’ safety is particularly important because of their open access to electronic information through the internet. We aim to safeguard young people through educating them on the appropriate use of social media and the dangers of downloading and sharing inappropriate material which is illegal under the Counter-Terrorism Act.

Democracy and the Rule of Law: We promote this through our Learner Voice, in our Professional
Development (PD) curriculum and by engaging apprentices with the right to vote. If you have not yet registered to vote, you can do so at GOV UK.

We have a Code of Conduct and a Discipline Policy in place and a focus on developing employability skills, such as following company policies and procedures.

Individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance: We promote awareness of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) within our Pathway Training and Professional Development build greater understanding of people’s differences and promote social integration in line with the vision of The Challenge, in that we aim to create “A more integrated society where there is understanding and appreciation of each other’s differences.”

Equality & Diversity

Step Forward is part of The Challenge, the UK’s leading charity for building a more integrated society. The Challenge design and deliver programmes that bring different people together to develop their confidence and skills in understanding and connecting with others.

The promotion of equality, diversity and inclusion is central to our culture.  Step Forward is committed to making sure everyone is treated fairly in line with the Equality Act 2010. This includes:

  • Removing barriers apprentices may face due to their differences
  • Eliminating discrimination

‘Diversity’ is about recognising and valuing peoples’ differences – for example, their backgrounds, skills, and experiences.

‘Inclusion’ is ensuring that no-one is excluded from opportunities to fulfil their potential.

Anti-Bullying & Harassment

Differences of attitude or culture and the misinterpretation of social signs can mean that what is perceived as bullying by one person may not seem so to another. However, the defining feature is that the behaviour is unwanted by the recipient. Bullying or harassment may be present in the form of, but not limited to:

Emotional: Ignoring, pestering, excluding, tormenting, insensitive jokes or pranks, damaging
property belonging to another person, demanding money or property, obscene gestures, threats, name calling.

Physical: Pushing, kicking, prodding, hitting, punching or any other use of physical contact,
stalking, damage to possessions.

Racist: Persistent racial taunts, graffiti, gestures, inappropriate language or an insulting attack on the basis of their ethnicity, culture, religious beliefs or colour, or failing to take into account cultural differences.

Sexual: Unwanted or inappropriate physical contact or sexual comments.

Homophobic: Verbal, physical or emotional bullying behaviour because of, or focusing on, the issue of sexuality.

Verbal: Name-calling, sarcasm, spreading rumours, making derogatory remarks, intrusive questioning or goading, jokes, unfounded criticism.

Cyber: All areas of internet such as email and internet chat room misuse, threats by text messaging and misuse of associated technology, e.g. camera and video facilities. This includes uploading of images to/from the internet that may be hurtful or insulting to an individual or group. Visit CEOP for more information.

Hate Crime: Hate crime is any offence committed against a person or property which is motivated by the offender’s hatred of people because they are seen as being different. People do not have to be members of a minority community to be victims of hate crime. Any incident where an individual or group of people are targeted because they are believed to be of a different race, religion/belief, sexual orientation, gender identity or have a disability can be reported as a hate crime.

All allegations or signs of bullying or harassment will be taken seriously and investigated by Step Forward.

Health & Safety

It is the firm policy of The Challenge to take all reasonable steps to ensure the safety, health and welfare of all its apprentices, in accordance with current legislation.

Accident and Incident Reporting: If you are unwell or experience an injury whilst at the Step Forward Training Venue, please inform a member of staff immediately.

First Aid: If you require a first aider whilst at the Step Forward training venue or at Step Forward events, please contact a member of staff immediately. There is a list of first aiders and their contact numbers on display in each training room.

Fire Alarms/Evacuations: All staff and apprentices must evacuate the building when the fire alarm sounds. Each training room details the nearest fire exit and displays the fire procedure. Once you have evacuated the building you must assemble at the meeting point which is located in the Elizabeth House car park, ground floor. No-one may re-enter the building until the alarms have been turned off and the fire department have declared the premises to be safe.  The fire alarms are tested weekly whereby a brief alarm signal will sound. On these occasions evacuation is not needed, and staff will be notified of these prior to testing.

Student Support

We are here to support you with any problem or difficulty that could be affecting you on the
programme. Below is a list of the support we can provide.

Pastoral Support
Tutor/Job Coach: If you are experiencing any challenges with your studies then your Tutor/Job Coach is the person to turn to. They will provide you with expert and specialist support when completing
assignments, revising for exams or preparing for your End Point Assessment. They are also
there to help you with any challenges you are experiencing at work.

Professional Development Mentor: Your Mentor will be the person to contact if you are experiencing more personal challenges and can advise on the following:

  • Mental health, physical health and sexual health
  • Additional learning support
  • Financial support
  • Travel and transport queries
  • Personal and relationship difficulties
  • Careers guidance


Step Forward has a holistic concern for each of our apprentices. We will give you our support in the area of health: mental, physical, and sexual.

Physical Health: Keeping active, and eating a balanced diet are two key aspects of physical health, and Step Forward will encourage these aspects of life throughout your time with us on the programme.

Mental Health: Your mental health is as important as your physical health.  Promoting good mental health and wellbeing can help you feel empowered and more resilient to cope with life’s challenges.  Mental Health problems can affect up to 1 in 10 young people. If you think that you may have a mental health condition, in the first instance speak to your doctor or access NHS specialist services such as NHS IAPT.

Your Mentor can support you in the following ways:

  • Organise careers guidance 1:1 meetings
  • Looking for job vacancies
  • Job applications and interview preparation
  • Applications for Further Education courses, such as Level 4 Apprenticeships
  • University applications through UCAS

Don’t struggle in silence. Your Mentor will be there to support you by listening and signposting you to specialist agencies and organisations, as well as delivering sessions as part of Professional Development curriculum to support your happiness and wellbeing.  Visit NHS IAPT for more information.

Sexual Health: Step Forward is pleased to be working with Brook, a charity that specialises in sexual health and happiness for under 25s.  At our training venue you can access:

  • A free and confidential drop in service on training days
  • Advice and guidance around sexual health and healthy relationships
  • Signposting to local services across participating London boroughs
  • A C-Card that allows you to pick up condoms, female condoms and lubricants wherever you see the Come Correct logo

Financial & Housing

We want your experience at Step Forward to be as smooth and trouble-free as possible.  As a student you have so many important things to deal with aside from your studies – money, accommodation, travel and so on.  Sometimes money is tight, and this can affect you in many ways. If you are having money or
housing issues please speak with your Mentor who can provide you with support and guidance
on the following things:

  • Financial issues and dealing with debt
  • Housing and accommodation
  • Childcare costs
  • Travel

NUS Apprentice Extra: As a Step Forward Apprentice you are eligible to apply for an NUS Apprentice Extra card.  The card costs £11 and gives you many excellent discounts in-store and online.  To apply for your card now head to the Apprentice Extra.

TFL Apprenticeship Oyster: The majority of our jobs are based in TFL Zones 1-6. Just as with any job, you will need to pay for your travel to work. You will have to budget for getting to and from your place of work, and to the training venue. However, you should be eligible for an Apprentice Oyster Card which will give you a 30% discount on travel cards and bus and tram passes, which could be the cheapest way to travel. More information can be found at TFL.



You can view the current Employer Handbook and Apprentice Handbook here.

Who We Work With

Step Forward provides apprentices to large and small employers across London

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