Funding needed to turn more young lives around

Enjoying a military style bootcamp at Bentley Pavillion are back l-r Taylor Matthews, 13, of Don Valley School, Jon Reynolds, of Military Fitness Training, A-Junction project manager Jim Hopper, Ian Burkitt, of Military Fitness Training, and Brad Tindill, 14, of Outwood Academy. Front l-r are Connor Barton, 13, of Ridgewood school, Tiger Chesters, 12, of Don Valley School, and Rhys Hayes, 13, of Outwood Academy.  Picture: Liz Mockler D2434LM
Enjoying a military style bootcamp at Bentley Pavillion are back l-r Taylor Matthews, 13, of Don Valley School, Jon Reynolds, of Military Fitness Training, A-Junction project manager Jim Hopper, Ian Burkitt, of Military Fitness Training, and Brad Tindill, 14, of Outwood Academy. Front l-r are Connor Barton, 13, of Ridgewood school, Tiger Chesters, 12, of Don Valley School, and Rhys Hayes, 13, of Outwood Academy. Picture: Liz Mockler D2434LM

PUPILS and school-leavers are being put through their paces military-style in a bid to prepare them for the world of work.

A community charity and private business have joined forces for the innovative pilot scheme to give youngsters a taste of Army life which aims to help them discover personal skills such as leadership, team-building and self-discipline.

The two-week programme is being run by A Junction Network North which approached Doncaster-based MFT (Military Fitness Training) to work with the youngsters.

The initial project involves 12 to 15-year-olds from Ridgewood School, Don Valley and Outwood Academy who are expected to benefit most from the experience.

The project, which started earlier this week, saw participants tackle challenges with the help of team-mates. And it proved so popular that the group stayed behind voluntarily for 45 minutes to finish their activities at Bentley Pavilion.

A dozen Don Valley school-leavers will soon start a similar six-week programme. The teenagers were invited to volunteer for a place and the course was quickly over-subscribed.

Funding for the initiative has come from an £8,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund and, if the pilot is successful, the charity will apply for more money to extend it.

Jim Hopper, a former soldier and project manager at A Junction Network North, joined the organisation last year and was keen to find ways to engage with young people, especially those not in education, employment or training (NEETs).

Drawing on his own Army career plus a positive experience of attending the Youth Games, Jim believes youngsters often respond well to such activities and learn a lot about themselves which can help them through life.

“It’s all about them pushing the boundaries and finding out what they can do,” he explained. “We want them to have the confidence to walk into a workplace and know their own capabilities because many of them are unprepared.”

And, according to Jim, the first group responded well to MFT instructors Jon Reynolds and Ian Burkitt who he said had put a lot of hard work into devising the tailor-made programme.

“I saw a transformation on the day. They gelled as a team and I’ve seen adults struggle with some of the tasks but they did really well,” said Jim.

He has also worked very closely with local schools and Doncaster Council’s Youth Services to get the project up and running.

His aim now is to secure £50,000 to roll out the scheme to 250 youngsters in the north of Doncaster to help prepare more young people for jobs and careers.

Based in Askern, A Junction Network North was established about 15 years ago to work with various groups including adult learners.