The Peer’s Dining Room at the House of Lords isn’t the first place you’d think to launch an apprenticeship scheme aimed at football fans, but this isn’t your ordinary apprenticeship scheme. The people behind Disorder Magazine (Milestone Group) have a new idea to throw all their money at: youth unemployment. They’re taking young people off the streets (or at least out of their football stadiums) and training them, creating ‘sustainable, life-changing outcomes with real value’. The House of Lords is an aristocratic maze full of men in suits and strange looking statues. I met my friend at the entrance, and once we’d cleared ‘security’ we were good to roam the corridors that shape the country. A policeman directed us toward another cluster of businessmen.
The Milestone Foundation is the name of the charitable arm of the Milestone Group and has been active since 2013. They look to ‘inspire young people, helping them identify their passions and natural skills then matching them with partners’ training and vocational opportunities’. The main project, the ‘Passion Project’, whose website champions a Hackney based music collective, a creative writing project and various other award schemes for young people. The story seemed to be they went out to ten different football matches across the capital and collected 3,500 young people, match-maked them with contemporary youth engagement projects and then held a party. The speakers spoke very passionately about their database, where the interactions and experiences of the young participants are tracked in a cyber passport. Evidence of the various training and placements is collected as a series of 2015 scout style patches. The ‘incentive’ to do, learn and try more comes in the form of music and cinema vouchers. Sounds great right? I had difficulties comparing this to science outreach (or the kind of apprenticeships this country actually needs- i.e. more civil engineers) is that it’s a much easier to convince someone to do what they ‘love’. There’s a lot of people who’d pick an afternoon at Arsenal over a two-year placement in industry… even if they got to design a jet engine.
The scheme is run by some very clever people with an awful lot of influence. Lord Patel of Bradford was the champion behind the Peer’s Dining room booking, and he was great- he sounded genuinely committed to improving the prospects of young people, but that may just be the lack of the London accent. He has a lovely looking supportive wife who beamed at him throughout his introduction. There’s ex-footballers, ex-bankers and Dragon’s Den style business women. There was an ex-investment banker who (when he wasn’t mentioning how successful he’d been at investment banking) jumped on a chair to preach about emotional intelligence. There was a brilliant woman who’d pushed for quality apprenticeships for young people that laster at least a year. We were taking through ‘Johnny’s journey’, through identification, guidance, direction, informing and review.
The launch was to schmooze businessmen into committing to providing young people with formal guidance, support and a apprenticeship at the end of the training. I’m sure if I was familiar with the insides of the Financial Times I’d have recognised some of the CEOs, but without name tags I was none-the-wiser. The canapés were fab: mini cucumber discs with smoked salmon, baby sausages, little quiches- and House of Lords white wine trumps Imperial. But you can probably tell, my heart just wasn’t in this event. I didn’t quite get it. I didn’t get how you could offer such extensive follow-up or review. I’m not entirely sure how you can capture the whole of the disenchanted youth demographic at a premier league football match. I kept getting promised that girls contributed to the disorder magazine- but I’m not entirely convinced. I don’t think you can save our country’s finances by making a new generation of digital content creators. I think we need to train people with skills that will transcend whatever is trending on twitter that day: we need to excite the whole population about science and engineering, so that we have a generation of people who can take on the best minds in the world.