The Royals don’t often get to meet The Royals! But Noel Hunt’s exceptional work with the Prince’s Trust earned him a trip to Clarence House where he met none other than HRH The Prince of Wales last year.
The focus of the reception was a chance to heap praise on the impact made by The Prince’s Trust Football Initiative, thanks to Premier League football clubs and shining examples and ambassadors like Noel.
“The great thing about this initiative is that it helps to raise self-esteem and self-confidence and then all sorts of other things become possible,” The Prince of Wales said.
“I always felt that if somehow we could work together with the football world, there is so much you can do to help bring in young people who otherwise might not get involved in all sorts of different programmes.
“I am thrilled that it has been so successful. I’m enormously grateful to the Premier League and the Professional Footballers’ Association for their remarkable support for this whole initiative.”
The Prince’s Trust Football Initiative is one of the Premier League’s longest partnerships and in 2012 the programme celebrated its 15th anniversary. It has helped provide pathways for more than 20,000 young people who may have had difficulty gaining employment or qualifications.
The programme is supported by all 20 Barclays Premier League clubs, as well as 45 clubs from the Football League. And since 1997, £7m has been donated to the scheme by the Premier League and the Professional Footballers’ Association.
More than 75% of those who participate in the 12-week programme – which sees young people taking part in a wide variety of community, team and esteem-building activities – have gone on to work, education or training.
And Noel has lent his support to groups on every step of the way for a number of years now, earning a nomination last season for the Football League's PFA Player in the Community award. “The guys here who work with the Prince's Trust are great, the work they put in is massive and it's fantastic to see. They are the real people behind it at these events that I help to support. And to meet the young people that are involved is so nice, there are some really good kids in the groups I have met over the years."
One of those kids last year was Mike Crone, who accompanied Noel to Clarence House that day. “Before I came to the Prince’s Trust I had no future at all. I was homeless and spent my days and nights wandering the streets. The Prince's Trust has given me a new perspective on life and I feel like I can achieve anything now. I am so ambitious - I'm even aiming to be the prime minister one day.”
Before Christmas, Hunt and Chairman Sir John Madejski presented the most recent group of Prince’s Trust ‘Team’ programme graduates with their certificates. Over a 12-week spell, the participants took part in community projects and workshops to help boost their employability skills, gain a number of qualifications and boost their confidence. From mock interviews and CV writing with Barclays and Fujitsu, to practical workshops with Royal Berkshire Fire Service, and even renovating a local youth and community centre…the young men and women, aged between 16 and 25, took it all in.
“We always see a huge change in the young people between the start of the course and the end," said Social Inclusion Officer Gary Webb.
"Using this programme, we have worked with more than 100 young people from across the Berkshire area now - and we feel we are improving young people’s life chances and employability skills in every day we run the project.”
A new Prince’s Trust ‘Team’ programme began at Madejski Stadium in January.