The Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd, visited Oakwell Stadium this week to see the work of Barnsley's Community Sports and Education Trust in action.
The Minister's department, The Office for Civil Society (OCS), is responsible for the National Citizen Service (NCS) project. The Football League Trust are running a national NCS programme this summer, and Barnsley are one of 15 Football League club trusts up and down the country who are involved.
NCS is a flagship Government initiative that brings together 16 and 17-year-olds from different backgrounds in a programme of challenge and learning, enabling them to develop the confidence they need to become more involved with their communities and to become responsible citizens.
At Oakwell, Nick Hurd met 20 participants from six different schools in the Barnsley area who will take on the NCS challenge. In total, The Football League Trust will deliver over 1,500 places on the project this year, the majority over the summer holiday period.
Chris Dolby, the NCS Project Coordinator at Barnsley Community Sports and Education Trust, led the participants in some team building exercises under the watchful eye of Hurd, who was then invited to take part in a Q&A session with the youngsters.
During the session, the Minister was asked what inspired him about NCS.
He replied: "I have four teenage kids of my own, plus a five-week-old baby.
"I see their future and there are difficult challenges ahead - NCS can help to make that easier. This is the best project I have ever been involved in, I have done a lot of things including running businesses in Brazil - and this is better."
The 50-year-old was grilled by the NCS participants for almost an hour, with testing questions around the benefits to the Government and young people being a common theme.
"An independent review into last year's NCS programme concluded that for every £1 we invested, £2 of benefit was generated.
"30,000 young people involved with NCS would generate three quarters of a million volunteering hours, and we hope that you will enjoy it so much that you will look for what else is on offer. As an NCS graduate there will be many more opportunities to help your community. As you begin to look for work and apply to college, as well as looking at your school grades, employers are looking for something else about you - NCS says a lot about you.'
Mike Evans, General Manager of The Football League Trust, commented: "We are delighted that the Minister was able to take time out of his busy schedule to see NCS in action at Barnsley today.
"Our education work with 16 and 17-year olds continues to develop massively and NCS is a key part of this transitional phase in a young person's journey through life. The professionalism of the staff at Barnsley's trust and ability to engage with young people will ensure that the participants have a summer to remember, whilst building important life skills for the future."
Images courtesy of the Barnsley Chronicle.