United opens doors to unemployed youngsters

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First published in Oxford Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Rose Hill, Iffley and Littlemore. Please call me on (01865) 425422

OXFORD United will today announce hundreds of new signings as it kicks off a scheme to help the city’s unemployed young people.

The new regime at the club is unveiling ambitious plans to help more than 600 youngsters from across Oxford.

Not only will the project, United We Achieve, introduce those aged 15-21 to the U’s team, they will also be given the chance to work in the club’s marketing and sports science departments. The scheme is backed by businesses across Oxfordshire and Oxford City Council, which has given the club £7,500 to run it.

It will consist of 18 workshops during the 2014-15 Football League season, which will involve work experience training, such as interview preparation and help applying for jobs. Young people will also get a chance to be involved in the day-to-day running of the club, including writing stories for its website and interviewing players.

Oxford United centre back Michael Raynes, who will help to lead the scheme, said: “I’m delighted to be a part of the project because getting young people into work is a real passion of mine. 

“I’m currently studying to be a teacher when I finish my footballing career so I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into the workshops.” 

Oxford United’s community development manager Rob Lees said: “We are very proud of the project and it is something everyone at the club feels really passionate about. 

“The game of football, our club and players as role models give us the tools you really need to get into disenfranchised communities and achieve some really strong outcomes for young people. We are lucky at Oxford United to have a group of players who want to be involved in projects like this. 

“I have been in the position myself where you don’t know what you want to do when you leave school or you’re finding it difficult to get a job. 

“We recognise that there is a problem within Oxford with youth unemployment and we want to help out and use our business connections and our own expertise to get young people into work. 

“By holding the sessions at the Kassam Stadium and having players and business people involved, we hope we can use the power of football to inspire young people and improve their confidence and skills.” 

Job centres will be able to refer any of the 700 young people currently unemployed in Oxford to the scheme. Schools and colleges will also be able to put forward pupils who are set to leave education without qualifications. 

Businesses that are part of the scheme will be offering the young people involved a chance to gain work experience with them and the possibility of a job in future. 

Marketing manager of Clark Howes business accountants, Anna Weston, said: “The job market is very discouraging at the moment and not just for people coming out of school without qualifications. 

“This scheme will be very helpful at getting young people’s confidence up and preparing them to enter the workplace. 

“We will have freelance vacancies opening up in the future and we hope to be able to find future employees through the workshops.” 

The project will see the club work closely with the city council’s Youth Ambition Programme.

City councillor Pat Kennedy, board member for educational attainment and youth ambition, said: “Supporting young people into work or training is a key aim for the council. 

“We are hugely excited about working with Oxford United in such an innovative partnership and look forward to helping young people across the city reach their full potential.” 

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