I founded my Prince’s Trust back in 1976, having felt strongly that many young people’s potential and talent can be wasted and unfulfilled, particularly if they are struggling with difficult circumstances that can so often be beyond their control. Unbelievably challenging environments, coupled with the experience of unemployment - especially over a long period of time and without the necessary guidance, encouragement and motivation - can crush self-esteem and potential and, instead, breed feelings of hopelessness or depression. Through my Trust, I have met many young people who have told me that, if it had not been for the intervention of the charity, they would have been ready to give up. Sadly, some have attempted to take their own lives following difficulties at home, while others have struggled to overcome issues such as bullying, addiction or homelessness. Many have ended up with few qualifications and little on their CV to help them into work. It has always been my belief that we need to reach these young people before it is too late. Since 1976, my Trust has been helping the most disadvantaged to develop the skills and self-confidence for the workplace, giving them the means to get their lives on track. The help provided by my Trust does not stop at getting young people into jobs. This year, The Trust is celebrating a landmark anniversary of one of its flagship schemes - 30 years of the Enterprise programme, which helps young people to set up in business. I set up this programme at a time of high youth unemployment when people faced considerable difficulties. In recent years we have been seeing some of the same issues re-surfacing with, at the last count, almost a million young people struggling to find a job or even self-employment. Since 1983, I am proud to say that my Trust has helped 80,000 young people do just that and to set up their own enterprises. The Enterprise Programme helps the hardest-to-reach young people work out if their business ideas are viable and if self-employment is right for them. The scheme offers a low-interest loan to cover start-up costs and, crucially, a dedicated business mentor who is there to steer them in the right direction in those first few years of self-employment. We now have an army of more than 6,000 volunteer advisers, whose support helps to turn people’s lives around. I have seen many young entrepreneurs come through the Enterprise Programme over the years, from florists and carpenters to caterers and software designers - the list is endless. It is heartening to know that these young people have created jobs and livelihoods for themselves with support from my Trust and, in some instances, employment and wages for others living in their communities too. More often than not, their success has come about in the face of challenging obstacles such as ill-health or difficult family situations, making it all the more impressive. The success rate of my Trust’s work makes me enormously proud. Many of the young people I have spoken to are quite clear that the support and guidance from their business mentor, through the good times and the bad, has been the crux of their success. On Tuesday, I will be attending the annual Prince’s Trust and Samsung Celebrate Success Awards which recognise just a fraction of the young people my Trust supports every year. I will meet young people who have overcome issues such as abuse and depression to turn their lives around. One of the awards recognises those young people who have overcome often immense barriers to create a sustainable business. Among the three young finalists for this RBS Enterprise Award is Peter, who encountered difficulties at secondary school while dealing with adverse psychological issues. Anxiety and stress caused Peter to move between numerous children’s homes and secure units. This had a negative impact on his education, leaving him without basic numeracy and communication skills. However, Peter has gone on to set up a successful pest control business which has exceeded all its financial targets. Another finalist, Emma, experienced mental health issues and bullying before setting up her design business. The third, Lee, was made unemployed after the plumbing company he worked for went into liquidation, but he has battled through to set up on his own in this area. Each one has faced huge obstacles which would have been insurmountable for many. Today, they stand proud and happy with successful enterprises under their belt. You can imagine how much I look forward to meeting all the young people receiving awards on Tuesday, knowing just how much they have overcome to get where they are today. Small businesses, such as Peter’s, Emma’s and Lee’s, are making waves in communities across the UK - not only by helping to boost their local economy, but also by becoming shining examples to other young people who may be on the brink of giving up themselves. In the year ahead, my Prince’s Trust aims to increase the number of young people it supports. To do this, the charity needs to raise more than £1 million a week. Funding is vital and I am eternally grateful to the public and businesses who donate thereby enabling this work to continue. I hope it goes without saying how vitally important it is to inspire and nurture the next generation and, above all, to give them the skills - both practical and social - which they so badly need to succeed in this increasingly challenging world.
This year, The Trust is celebrating a landmark anniversary of one of its flagship schemes - 30 years of the Enterprise programme, which helps young people to set up in business.