"These young men and women need to be offered a way out - a chance to choose a different route. Fortunately, initiatives like Street Elite exist and turn young people's lives around. I was lucky enough to be mentored when I was a teenager and it made a huge difference to me." Ian Wright
SPORT is a powerful tool in re-engaging hard-to-reach young people and getting them into education, employment or training, a new independent report reveals.
The study found that sport can play a significant part in addressing the structural and personal issues that lead youngsters to disengage such as mental health, boredom, poverty, frustration and a lack of role models.
It comes as a programme designed to get the disadvantaged back into training, education and work celebrates its fifth year. Street Elite is a sports-based, training for work programme, run by youth charity The Change Foundation in partnership with the Berkeley Foundation.
The programme involves nine months of intensive coaching and mentoring, designed to help give young adults living on the edge of gangs and crime, the skills and confidence they need to get a job or go on to further and higher education.
The report, conducted by independent research experts at Oxford Brookes University, found that over its five years 78% of 222 Street Elite participants have re-engaged with education or the employment market and with their communities.
Arsenal legend Ian Wright said:
"These young men and women need to be offered a way out - a chance to choose a different route. Fortunately, initiatives like Street Elite exist and turn young people's lives around. I was lucky enough to be mentored when I was a teenager and it made a huge difference to me."
As part of the programme, which was launched in 2011, participants help to organise a one day sports festival, involving dozens of local schools and hundreds of young people, and are then offered a two-week work placement with the Berkeley Group
Of the 178 graduates who are now in education, employment or training, 15 have landed permanent jobs with the Berkeley Group, the FTSE 100 housebuilder. They are now helping to sell new homes and manage building sites across the capital.
The report finds that Street Elite offers a practical model for youth engagement, in particular for trying to reach young people that are said to be 'beyond NEET', or classified by the state as 'unknown'. Face-to-face and estate recruitment are essential parts of the programme, as to is youth workers, business and local authority agencies working together to build trust and respect with young people and connect them with opportunities and contacts they otherwise would not find.
At an event which took place at Arsenal FC's Emirates stadium on 7th June 2016, Street Elite celebrated its 5th anniversary and the 300 participants to have taken part so far.
Rob Perrins, Managing Director of the Berkeley Group, added:
"A hard core of seriously disengaged young men and women, still live on the edge of gangs and crime. We need them back in the workforce.
"And while it is true that the number of young people not in education, employment or training has come down fast, if your business has anything to do with communities, this remains a critical issue.
"Councils do not have the resource to respond. It has to be companies and charities working together to re-engage as many young people as we can."