Rio Ferdinand joined BT Chairman, Sir Mike Rake at a special event in March, which marked a year since the Rio Ferdinand Foundation (RFF) partnered with BT to help get more young people ready for the world of work.
Held at the BT Tower, the event celebrated the more than 600 young people who have been helped by the programmes in the past 12 months and was attended by Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, and Alan Johnson, MP, as well as BT Sport presenter Jake Humphrey.
The BT and Rio Ferdinand Foundation (RFF) partnership aims to give young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, the core skills they need to gain employment as well as developing their understanding of technology and how they can use it to achieve their goals.
In the next year, the partnership are looking to extend the programme to Belfast and Manchester after its success in London and Doncaster, which will give a further 600 young people the opportunity to gain the skills they need to get a job.
Rio Ferdinand commented: “The partnership with BT is hugely important to the RFF and I am really proud of the work we have done so far.”
“As a boy growing up on a Peckham council estate I have seen first-hand the lack of guidance and direction that a lot of young people face. Our programme of grassroots engagement, social action and accredited training for young people is a truly unique proposition that allows us to talk directly to disadvantaged communities helping to open their eyes to the wealth of opportunities that are available to them. The young people that we’ve helped have become people who are now looked up to in their communities rather than as someone who has lost their way – it is really rewarding and satisfying for me to give something back.”
Sir Mike Rake, Chairman of BT, said: “We are surrounded by technology every day, yet many of us don’t understand how it actually works and how it can shape our lives and future career prospects. With Brexit now in progress, the challenge for the UK in order for us to continue economic growth is to help plug the skills shortage amongst our 12 million young people to create the strongest work pool to thrive in the digital era. The BT & RFF Work Ready programmes are designed to kick-start the careers of young people aged between 16-24 giving them the opportunity to develop the key tech skills that employers look for and which are vital to thrive in this digital era.”
Kareem Viller, who has been helped by the RFF and BT partnership, said: “Before I went on the programme I was really demotivated and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. The course gave me direction but also the tech skills that I needed to actually feel confident about working. I now have a job and my life would be really different if I hadn’t completed it.”
BT’s Work Ready programme is aimed at 14-24 years-olds and is designed to teach essential skills and provide work experience to build these young people’s confidence and ability to get a job. Of the over 2000 young people who have taken part on the traineeship and work placements, 59% have gone on to secure jobs or continue with their education.
The Rio Ferdinand Foundation was set up by the famous Manchester United and England defender, Rio Ferdinand to provide mentoring and employment pathways to help young people in economically deprived areas. It has worked with over 5000 young people in South London and Manchester.
Research has found that programmes such as this are incredibly important for providing young people with the support they need to identify and take advantage of employment opportunities. 75% of young people have revealed that doing a traineeship or pre-employment programme would give them the skills and confidence to enter the workplace. Youth unemployment is down by 78,000 in November 2016 – January 2017 compared to a year ago, however, 40% of employers say they still struggle to recruit employees with the right tech capabilities showing the need for the continuation of these programmes.
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 Source: Vanson Bourne research 2016
 Source: House of Commons youth unemployment, briefing paper 15th March 2017
Source: Vanson Bourne research 2016