Empowering young minds and breaking the cycle of unemployment with sport

Emily Jones avatar

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Playing sports not only helps keep us fit but can also make a positive impact on youth unemployment, which is a major societal issue in the UK. Street League, a charity that focuses on young people aged 16 to 24 who are struggling to enter the job market, combines physical activity with career advice, skill development, and formal qualifications. By using sports as a platform, Street League engages young people, promotes important soft skills such as communication and problem-solving, and provides a safe environment for them to discuss and pursue their career aspirations.

Through the support of the players of People’s Postcode Lottery, Street League reaches over 2000 young individuals every year in England and Scotland. The charity’s programs typically last 10 to 15 weeks and include four group sessions per week. However, Street League acknowledges that each young person is unique and customizes their plan accordingly. This tailored approach may involve matching individuals with local job opportunities or providing additional assistance beyond the standard program. Steven Jardine, Head of UK Operations at Street League, emphasizes the charity’s commitment to making a difference and underlines the transformative effect it can have on someone’s life, from gaining confidence to succeeding in a new job.

Street League operates in various locations across England and Scotland, using different strategies to reach young people. These include visiting schools, organizing sports events, and utilizing social media for advertising. This proactive approach ensures that Street League’s impact can be felt by a wide range of individuals. One success story is Dillon, who encountered the charity while attending school in South Ayrshire. Initially drawn to the sports element of Street League’s program, Dillon soon found himself participating in employability training, including a mock interview. As a result, he secured an apprenticeship with Parks Motor Group in Ayr and has impressed the staff with his progress, attributing his success to Street League’s support in building his confidence, teaching him valuable life skills, and guiding him towards opportunities he may not have found otherwise.

In the UK, the scale of youth unemployment is a pressing issue. Official figures reveal that young people aged 16 to 24 are three times more likely to be unemployed compared to adults. In April 2023, the unemployment rate for this age group stood at 10.9%, whereas the overall unemployment rate for all adults was 3.8%. Furthermore, the Office of National Statistics reported that there are over 41,000 individuals in this age group who have been unemployed for more than a year.

Duncan Bailey, a Youth and Community Coach at Street League, shares a powerful success story of a young man named Mark. Mark had faced challenges with the law and rival gangs after leaving school in London, feeling directionless and stuck in a negative path. With his experience as a coach, Bailey knew that Street League could provide the guidance Mark needed to turn his life around. By discussing Mark’s interests, ambitions, and struggles, Bailey recognized Mark’s passion for football and the transferable skills it offers, such as teamwork, communication, and resilience. Building upon these skills in an environment that suited Mark’s interests, Street League supported him in gaining mathematics qualifications and securing a place in college to study a BTEC in sport. Years later, Mark is now heading to university, excelling academically and beyond, utilizing the skills he developed through sports.

Street League has successfully demonstrated how the combination of sports, mentorship, and tailored support can empower and equip young people with the necessary skills and opportunities to overcome unemployment barriers and embark on a positive trajectory towards their desired future.

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