AYR United Football Academy was under the spotlight this week as the Minister for Youth Employment, Angela Constance, came to town to learn about the Academy’s involvement in two Youth Employment initiatives, the Flexible Support and Community Jobs Scotland programmes.
Ms Constance’s visit, which took place on Thursday, was to allow her to hear from one of a number of local organisations involved in Scottish Government initiatives designed to increase the number of young people in employment or education, so she spent part of her day hearing of the Academy’s commitment to the cause.
Minister for Youth Employment Angela Constance said:
“Scotland’s football clubs are the hubs of their communities and as such, have a pivotal role in creating opportunities for young people that live locally.
“Many youngsters dream of playing football as they grow up, and the chance to learn new skills and improve their chances of gaining employment while taking part in football training must be an exciting prospect.
“The Academy’s links with local employment providers are a good example of partnership working, and set a good example of how a community can pull together and help our young people make the most of their potential.”
In May, the Academy joined forces with Job Centre Plus to forge a new and dynamic way of assisting young people in the area to seek employment. As an organisation that has a history of promoting inclusion and interaction, it took on the mantle of using football coaching activity to assist young people around Ayrshire to perfect the skills and confidence vital to any jobseeker.
The schedule of activities, funded by the Flexible Support Fund, which lasted for 10 weeks, saw a diverse range of participants receive specialist coaching from staff in twice weekly sessions held at Somerset Park. Academy staff were also on hand to assist in matching candidates to suitable vacancies, provide their expertise in completing application forms, and advise on interview skills. As well as these more practical elements, those involved were given information on fitness and healthy eating.
In attendance on Thursday were some of the Academy employees who have been instrumental in the running of their community-based endeavours, including the Community Projects Manager, Head of Football Development and Football Development Officer. They were joined by Support Employment and Community Jobs Scotland participants.
The aim of the afternoon was to show the positive impact that taking part in schemes such as these can have and that message was emphasised by group members giving personal accounts of what the time has meant to them. Academy staff also delivered a presentation that focussed on AUFA’s general community involvement – more specifically in relation to creating employment pathways for young people – and detailing what benefits can be
delivered to those who perhaps would not have had the self belief that is required to be able to enter the workforce without the support of dedicated professionals.
Academy Chair, Ian Welsh summed up by noting:
“This was a great opportunity to showcase a project which was relished by all involved and has brought immeasurable rewards to local residents and the Academy was pleased to be appointed to deliver it. It is hoped that it will highlight how important these ventures are in improving the employment chances of countless individuals and also pave the way for similar future enterprise”.
Report by Cheri Burns