Building a better future

Selhurst Park might be known as the home of Crystal Palace Football Club, but for the past six weeks it has housed a group of young people taking the first steps towards a career in construction.

The local youngsters, aged between 17-19, are undertaking the training as part of the Premier League Works programme with Palace for Life Foundation, the official charity of Crystal Palace.

PL Works uses the power of football to engage young people who are not involved in education, training or employment and help them build the confidence and skills to turn their lives around.

Youngsters from the PL Works programme at Selhurst Park

Jay, 17, who lives in Beckenham joined the programme after struggling to get into college.

He explained: “I didn’t like school, I just found it really hard to concentrate. To be honest, I didn’t really go at all in year 11 and then I failed my GCSEs.

“I did want to go to college but I missed the day to apply and then my aunty told me about this course.”

Run by Palace for Life Foundation in partnership with Keepmoat Regeneration, the six-week scheme introduces young people to the potential trades and roles they could pursue. They are helped with CV writing and mock interviews, before studying for and gaining their Construction Skills Certification Scheme card.

Jay continued: “I’ve learnt a lot about construction, I passed my level one health and safety, which I didn’t think I’d be able to do, so I was pleased.

“Next I want to get an apprenticeship and then get a trade for myself.”

Nayab, who is 19 and living in Peckham, has been in London for five years after moving from Afghanistan with his father. His mother, four sisters and one brother are still in Afghanistan and he hopes that he can make them proud.

He said: “I’ve not seen my mum for five years, I’m hoping to go and see her next year. She always asks me what I’m doing here and wants to know what I’m planning. I think she will be happy as long as I’m doing whatever I want to do.”

Alan Beech, Community Impact Manager at Keepmoat Regeneration, has been leading the group through the course and explained why Keepmoat is committed to providing opportunities for young people who have faced difficulty and adversity.

“We have a philosophy to help people who feel like they are on their last chance and show them that there is another way.

“You don’t need all of your exams, you could still get a good career in construction,” he said.

“I’ve seen real potential in this group and it has been great to see some of them realise that this could actually be for them.

“It’s very rewarding when you’re able to break down those barriers, they don’t know who we are, so as they get to know and trust us, we are able to get across the importance of what we’re doing,” he continued.

Youngsters from the PL Works programme sitting in the stands at Selhurst Park

For 17-year-old Mitchell from Sutton, who has recently moved into a hostel to live independently, the course has built his confidence and ability to work alongside others.

He said: “I don’t really like working in teams, I prefer to be on my own, but my confidence has come on. We all have to get involved and work together and listen to each other, it’s a good group.”

Mitchell also now feels more positive about his future.

He continued: “There are many things that I could do within construction, it gives me lots of options for my future and things I can try out.

“I don’t think I’m going to be the next David Beckham, so I want to focus on construction.

“I’m doing this for myself, what I do now will affect me for the rest of my life, that’s what motivates me.”

Deputy Head of Community Development Susan Patterson-Smith added: “At Palace for Life Foundation, we are committed to working with young people in our community who are furthest away from the labour market and helping them secure employment by enabling them to build skills, confidence and undertake work experience placements.
 
“We have a strong partnership with Keepmoat Regeneration and are delighted to see this group thriving and gaining valuable skills that we hope will help them find a career path that works for them in the future.”

To find out more about Palace for Life Foundation’s Employability work, contact SusanPattersonSmith@palaceforlife.org