Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Most satisfying and relevant thing I've ever done...

So here’s a story. I sponsor a football team in Scotland – Musselburgh Windsor. It’s cool having your company name, WildFire, emblazoned on the shirt fronts, but that’s not the point. The point is - this is the world I came from. I know it well. Without community structure, discipline and sport, many would be getting into mischief – real mischief, for some the sort of mischief that gets you locked away. For far too long, young working class lads have been vilified and ignored. They come out at the bottom of every educational league table but at the top of every crime and prison statistic. What they don’t need is yet more middle-class people getting jobs to ‘support’ their community needs. We need to listen to what they want and fund it directly. 
The team is coached by a young lad, only 22, who on leaving school became an apprentice. He beat literally hundreds of other candidates and is now doing very well in a handsomely paid job in which he excels. Quick-witted, smart and organised, he showed leadership from an early age by coaching others just a little bit younger than himself. He commands respect but so do the other adults in the coaching staff and the parents who turn up to give support, make tea at half time and do most of the organising. They have teams across a range of age groups as well as a team for refugees and kids from care homes.
What matters here is the structure and support football gives to the young people who do not go to University. These lads show real comradeship and are part of a solid community. They learn about teamwork, communicating with others, respecting others. Training, avoiding excesses on a Friday night and the support of their parents and siblings matter. You don’t train, you don’t play. It gives them pride and purpose. You may not like football or have little contact with working class lads like these but believe me, all of this matters – really matters.
For some, their first trip abroad on their own was with the team to a tournament in Barcelona, where they reached the final, and lost narrowly. Sure they were a handful but that’s part of the learning process. But the greatest lesson they learn is that of winning and losing. They won the league this year, after being second and third for most of the season – that took grit, effort and determination but they lost in their big Cup Final 7-6 to Airdrie on penalties. Some of the greatest lessons in life come from losing.
For years I’ve been arguing, defending and writing about the imbalance in our education system, one that has led to a bloated, academic system, especially HE, at the expense of a more balanced system that suits all. Thankfully we have an apprenticeship levy and T-levels on the way - and about time. We're using WildFire in apprenticeship training, all created by AI. Around the world, nations are wakening up to the needs for vocational skills. I'll be arguing for this in Rwanda later this year. The minority of young people go to University, but even on the left the debate is ALL about students, student fees and HE. If you want to reduce knife crime in London, or youth crime anywhere, look to solutions like this. Give young people purpose and structure.
An update - they won the league and 4/5 cups. The coach Euan, gave a brilliant speech in the pub at the end of the season, going through each player, one by one, and thanking them. As I write this, I feel as pleased as a plum.

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