Speaking at a sports festival today (Thursday 9th July) in Southwark, Colin Jackson hailed the power of sport to help get young adults into work.
"I have always been a passionate believer in the positive impact of sport," he said. "Street Elite takes all the great things in sport - motivation, concentration, dedication - and uses it to inspire young people from really tough backgrounds to make a success of their lives."
Street Elite is a training for work programme, run by youth charity the Change Foundation in partnership with the Berkeley Foundation. It helps young adults living on the edge of gangs and crime to find a job or get into college.
The Change Foundation announced today that 200 young people have gone through the programme; and 80% of these participants have successfully moved into education, training or employment. 13 have landed permanent jobs with the Berkeley Group. They are now helping to sell new homes and manage building sites across the capital.
One of them, Victor Gbenoba, dropped out of college when he was 17 and got involved in the wrong crowd:
"I was walking around the estate one day when I met Si from Street Elite. He told me about the programme and asked if I wanted to join. I started attending the training sessions in January.
A few months in, I was stabbed and hospitalised for three days. But the programme inspired me to keep going. I made it to every session, even when I couldn't join in with the sport.
Then my coach recommended me for a 2 week placement with Berkeley. Now I'm working full time for them, on a good salary at their site on Kensington High Street. I do their paperwork for construction and sustainability reporting. Having a job makes my mum proud."
Employment Minister Priti Patel said: "All young people deserve the opportunity to make something of their lives and succeed, regardless of their background. Street Elite's passion is helping to turn young lives around through training and employment. More young people are getting a job and starting careers and we are committed to making sure they have the skills and experience they need to succeed in life."
1. Photography of Colin Jackson with some of the young women and young men involved in Street Elite will be available by 1.00pm on Thursday 9 July from Sophie.email@example.com
2. Youth unemployment:
3. The Change Foundation is an award winning UK based charity which has been using the sport to change the lives of disadvantaged young people in London, the UK and across the world for over 30 years. http://www.thechangefoundation.org.uk/
4. The Berkeley Foundation is a registered charity supported by house-builder the Berkeley Group. It has so far committed over £6million to helping young people and their communities. www.berkeleyfoundation.org.uk