JAMIE is the first to admit that he was a tearaway teenager.

Having dropped out of school at 15, he spent his time fighting and getting into trouble with the law.

At 17 he decided he needed to turn his life around and started looking for work, signing on, scouring papers and sending off applications but couldn't find anyone to employ him.

But everything changed for him when he was advised to contact a small Southampton charity, The Rainbow Project.

Jamie secured a place on the charity's Echo-backed Life Chances scheme.

The scheme helps disadvantaged young people in the area who are struggling to find work.

It works with local businesses to provide one-year supported work placements.

As well as gaining part-time employment, the young people are also assigned a one-to-one mentor and given work-related training in order to help them find permanent work in future.

Jamie began a placement with Southampton City Council, working as a neighbourhood warden, in May.

And the 25-year-old from Southampton is celebrating, having secured a permanent job.

"It's helped me turn my life around," says Jamie of the project.

"It's helped keep me out of trouble and be a good role model for my little brother. I didn't want him to go down the same path as me.

"I'm really happy now. I have a good career and it's nice to have regular money. I can pay off my debts, help pay the rent and I'm saving up for driving lessons."

Jamie admits that going to work regularly was an adjustment for him.

"I was used to stay in bed until 11am or midday, so I had to get used to getting into work in the morning!" he says.

One of the things that Jamie particularly likes about his job, which includes cleaning communal areas in blocks of flats, is getting to know the local residents.

"We help them to live in better blocks and they thank us for it, which is really nice," he says.

"I can't thank the Rainbow Project enough for the opportunity they gave me - they've changed my life."

Hoping to follow in Jamie's footsteps, and turn their Rainbow Project placements with Southampton City Council into permanent roles are Shaun, 21, and Mark, 25.

Mark says he never really went to school. He started work at 15, cleaning and labouring, but had struggled to find work recently.

He was put in touch with the Rainbow Project by his probation officer, having been placed on probation after breaching a restraining order last year.

"It's made a real difference to be in regular work," he says.

"I was with an agency before so it was a day here and there. The mentoring is really good too. I thought it would be pointless as I'd worked before, but they've helped with things like budgets and opening a bank account.

"The work is really enjoyable. There's something different every day - putting up fences, replacing locks, working in the gardens etc and the banter with the lads is really good.

"It's made a big difference to me to be in regular work and getting a nice wage," he says.

"That might not sound like a lot but it's a big difference for me."

Shaun is particularly pleased to be in regular work as he has recently become a father.

The 21-year-old left school at 14 but went on to study woodland skills and tree surgery at Sparsholt College.

But although he has worked in the past, in a chip shop and as a cleaner, he had been out of work for two years before securing his Rainbow Project placement.

He has been placed with the council's Open Spaces team and is delighted to be putting his training to good use and is hoping to secure a permanent role.

"Becoming a dad has definitely made me more motivated," he says.

"I love being a dad. It's lovely getting home at the end of work to see my daughter. I want to build a good, stable future for my family.

"The Rainbow Project has been amazing. They have helped me so much, with mentoring, getting my finances in order and helping me get a job.

"If it wasn't for them I'd probably still be looking for work at the job centre. I owe then a lot. It has changed my life so much."

Pete Duffill, senior warden, who manages the Life Chances placements, says the project is proving very successful.

"We have to introduce them to working life - where they need to be, coming to worn on time and so on and them move on to employing them with teams, training them to use tools and preparing them to be in the public eye.

"We enjoy having the extra labour and hope they are enjoying the experience. Together, we're making the Rainbow Project a success."

The Rainbow Project is seeking more employers to become involved in the scheme by offering a placement and/or sponsoring a young person.

For more information about the Life Chances scheme, visit therainbowproject.co.uk or call 023 8022 3525.