The last weeks have been some of the most exciting in West Ham's history as we've secured tenancy of the Olympic Stadium. It's the start of a new chapter for us as a club but more importantly secures the legacy of the London 2012 Games by sustaining renewal of this part of East London.
But, it is just the start and I believe far more than construction has to be done if we are to truly fulfil the legacy of last year's Games. Its mantra was to 'Inspire a Generation'. We now have to deliver on this promise.
The generation we need to inspire has never needed us more. The UK has experienced the fastest rise in youth unemployment of any country in the G8 since the start of the recession. Today, nearly one million young people are struggling to start careers or even find any work at all. At the same time, employers struggle to recruit entry-level candidates with the right skills. Last year, a staggering one in four businesses didn't recruit a single young person. The legacy of the Games will be failure if we don't create opportunities for this generation to be successful.
We all have a role to play which is why I've become an Ambassador for LifeSkills, a programme created by Barclays to develop the skills one million young people need to find work by 2015. This includes providing 50,000 work experience opportunities this year. My own club, West Ham FC, is already signed up. LifeSkills is about transforming the opportunities available to a generation, particularly those who grow up in families where parents aren't working and can't access the work experience they need.
It can be all too easy to dismiss the difference that having work skills and experience make. But, think about how you learnt what was needed to get your first job or even had the support to find out what you were good at. My first job was sweeping the floor at a hairdresser. I went from there to, by the end of the week, running the reception and realising I could be successful in business. I never looked back. For today's young people such work experience just doesn't exist. Part time and Saturday jobs are not available in the way they used to be.
The issue was bought home to me recently when I met pupils at Langdon Park secondary school in Tower Hamlets. It is the second most deprived secondary school in the UK with a high concentration of pupils growing up in homes where neither parent works. Despite this, when we sat in their classroom and discussed work these pupils were ambitious for their futures. They were talented and eager to learn how to get their careers started. I am sure they would all make impressive lawyers, doctors or even chair of a football club. The only brake on their ambition was their ability to access opportunities to learn the skills needed to get a foot in the door even though they were within view of the breadth of businesses in Canary Wharf.
Tackling this issue requires us to work together. Government, business, schools, families and young people together taking responsibility for removing the barriers around moving successfully into work. It rests on businesses connecting with young people and offering work experience opportunities that will help them develop skills to become the future engine of our economy. In turn, this has to be alongside schools, families and young people being able to access resources to help learn what's needed for the workplace - such as how to interview. The difference we'll make could be dramatic with the Education and Employers Taskforce finding that young people who have skills training earning on average up to 18 per cent more than those without.
We have a long way to go in changing the economic outlook for an entire generation. But, we can start by giving this generation opportunities that will help them get ahead and become an asset to business across the UK. If we are successful then we will have truly delivered the legacy of the 2012 Games by inspiring a generation then supporting them to succeed.
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