Rio Ferdinand joined BT Chairman, Sir Mike Rake at a special event to mark a year since the footballer’s charity, the Rio Ferdinand Foundation (RFF), joined forces with BT to help get more young people skilled up and ready for the world of work.

The event, which celebrated taking more than 600 young people through its joint programmes in the past 12 months, was held at the BT Tower, where they were joined by Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, and Alan Johnson, MP, as well as BT Sport presenter, Jake Humphrey.

Following the success of training young people in both London and Doncaster this year, BT and the Rio Ferdinand Foundation is extending the partnership to Belfast and Manchester and plans to help another 600 young people get the skills they need to get a job.

“The partnership with BT is hugely important to the RFF and I am really proud of the work we have done so far,” commented Rio Ferdinand. “As a boy growing up on a Peckham council estate I have seen first-hand the lack of guidance and direction that a lot of young people face. Our programme of grassroots engagement, social action and accredited training for young people is a truly unique proposition that allows us to talk directly to disadvantaged communities helping to open their eyes to the wealth of opportunities that are available to them. The young people that we’ve helped have become people who are now looked up to in their communities rather than as someone who has lost their way – it is really rewarding and satisfying for me to give something back.”

Sir Mike Rake, Chairman of BT, said: “We are surrounded by technology every day, yet many of us don’t understand how it actually works and how it can shape our lives and future career prospects. With Brexit now in progress, the challenge for the UK in order for us to continue economic growth is to help plug the skills shortage amongst our 12 million young people to create the strongest work pool to thrive in the digital era. The BT & RFF Work Ready programmes are designed to kick-start the careers of young people aged between 16-24 giving them the opportunity to develop the key tech skills that employers look for and which are vital to thrive in this digital era.”

Kareem Viller, who has been helped by the RFF and BT partnership, said: “Before I went on the programme I was really demotivated and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. The course gave me direction but also the tech skills that I needed to actually feel confident about working. I now have a job and my life would be really different if I hadn’t completed it.”

By combining efforts, the partnership aims to give young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, the core skills they need to get a job as well as an understanding of technology and how they can use it to achieve their ambitions, upskilling them to not get left behind by the fast pace of the world of tech today.

BT’s Work Ready programme is designed to help 14-24 year-olds build confidence and get the essential skills and work experience they need to get a job. More than 2,000 young people have taken part in BT traineeships and work placements so far with 59 per cent going on to secure jobs or continue with their education. Set up by Rio Ferdinand, the legendary Manchester United and England defender, the RFF provides mentoring and employment pathways to help young people in economically deprived communities. The Rio Ferdinand Foundation has worked with 5,000 young people in South London and Manchester.

Research shows that programmes such as this are invaluable in helping to support young people to identify and take advantage of employment opportunities, with recent figures showing that youth unemployment was down by 78,000 in November 2016 – January 2017 compared to a year ago[1]. Furthermore, 75% of young people have admitted that doing a traineeship or pre-employment programme would give them the skills and confidence to enter the workplace[2]. 40% of employers say they still struggle to recruit employees with the right tech capabilities[3] however, showing a need for continued efforts and resources.