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Freestyle footballer Jamie Knight at the Street Elite Festival in Southall

Street Elite: Providing job chances through sport

A scheme being used to inspire young people into work and education is ‘an actual opportunity through sport’ to change your life, claims Anton (pictured below) who recently started a new career thanks to its effect on him. We spoke to Anton at the Street Elite festival this summer, which included demonstrations by professional freestyle footballer
Jamie Knight (pictured), who you can watch show off some tricks in our video.

Football at the Street Elite festival
Football at the Street Elite festival

Street Elite is a sports-based programme that has worked in London for five years to improve the prospects of young people who have struggled in the education system – for reasons that can range from anything from academic difficulties to being on the edge of gangs. By using the power of sport, Street Elite aims to engage them and ‘train’ them for work. So far, three quarters of participants have successfully moved into education, training or employment.

It has been working in our borough for three years. After two years working in and around Southall, the Street Elite coaches have been working in Northolt this year. The scheme has been jointly and equally funded in our borough by a combination of Ealing Council; the Berkeley Group construction company’s charitable foundation; and fundraising by the Change Foundation, which runs the Street Elite programme.

Group activity at the Street Elite festival
Group activity at the Street Elite festival

In the summer, the council’s Spikes Bridge Park in Southall provided the venue for a graduation event for Street Elite participants and a festival for local schoolchildren to get involved in dance and sport with professional coaching.

Si Ledwith, head of programmes at the Change Foundation and Street Elite, said: “There is a whole host of reasons why the education system hasn’t worked for the young people we take on through Street Elite. Working in a team provides life lessons and helps them create a better perception of themselves. And, if they earn it, they can get a job. This is a real opportunity.”

Street Elite is a nine-month programme. Initially, it involves 12 weeks of two-hour sports-based training and mentoring sessions. They are based around building trust, teamwork and confidence – as well as providing the chance to gain accredited qualifications.

Next, they test the skills they have learned by running sports sessions on local housing estates over a period of 10 weeks. Then, they help to organise a one-day sports festival, like the one at Spikes Bridge Park, involving local schools and hundreds of pupils.

Finally, they ‘graduate’ and are offered work placements and choose to enter education, employment or training.

Anton Gabriel, who gained a job via the Street Elite programme
Anton Gabriel, who gained a job via the Street Elite programme

Work placements can lead to employment. Anton Gabriel, 23 and from Southall, is proof of that.

He has just been given a full-time contract at Berkeley Group as an assistant site manager on the Southall Waterside development.

He said: “A year ago I was standing here helping with last year’s festival and here I am now with a new career. A youth club I went to asked if I’d like to get involved in some football sessions, which turned out to be Street Elite. Eventually I helped to run some sessions and then helped to organise last year’s event. I was then given a work placement.

“It’s been a journey with a big learning curve and I’ve picked up skills, including decision-making and gaining confidence to communicate with people I may not have mixed with before; I’ve improved my body language, too, and learned how to carry yourself. I had to teach myself to adjust and to apply myself. I’d say to anyone the opportunities through Street Elite are real – it is an actual opportunity through sport. I seized it and took it by both horns.”

Group activity at Street Elite festival
Group activity at Street Elite festival

Councillor Peter Mason, the council’s cabinet member for prosperity, skills, employment and transformation, attended the sports festival and graduation event. He said:
“Regenerating our borough for the better isn’t just about bricks, mortar, glass and steel. It’s also about ensuring that our young people have the strength, confidence an resilience to get in to work and earning good incomes.

“That’s why we are so pleased to be able to work with Street Elite and Berkeley, one of our biggest partners in delivering new homes, in providing work and training opportunities for the young people of our borough who need them most.”

Visit www.street-elite.org for more information about Street Elite.

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