As we begin to look back on the storm we have weathered, it is a source of the most enormous pride to hear how The Prince’s Trust’s Award winners have thrived, despite all the dreadful difficulties they have faced. Each of the winners has overcome immense barriers, as we have heard, to get where they are now and have shown the most impressive resolve. As I said earlier, I am enormously proud of all of you and cannot possibly congratulate you enough.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I can’t tell you how pleased I am to be able to welcome you all to this very special Prince’s Trust Awards Trophy Ceremony.  After what seems like an incredibly long time, and it really is marvellous to be together again, in person, after this delay of 18 months or so with this dreadful pandemic, and to share in the celebrations of all these wonderful young people. I find their stories have moved me, made me laugh and cry. I can’t tell you how proud I am of all of them and what they represent in terms of the incredible amount of effort and determination they’ve put into all this – and to win the awards! Which also, I think, says an awful lot about the Prince’s Trust team, all those people who spend an enormous amount of time helping to build self-confidence and self-esteem amongst so many young people.

First of all, I particularly want to thank everyone involved with the virtual Prince’s Trust Awards broadcast earlier this year, in March.  And my very special thanks go to T.K. Maxx and Homesense for their really wonderfully loyal and continued generosity in support of the Awards. The fact they go on every year, I can’t tell you, it makes such a difference. I still recall that memorable visit to T.K. Maxx in Tooting a few years ago! I remember there were an enormous number of people who were trying to get in, as they were waiting for me to get out! Story of my life…

I must also thank our hostess for this afternoon and long-standing and very dedicated Ambassador of The Prince’s Trust, Fearne Cotton. It is so good of you to come back again.

I must thank the other Prince’s Trust’s Ambassadors, some of whom are here today, who have been wonderful. Some haven’t managed to make it, I think, because they may have caught something that could have sadly prevented them from coming here.

Also, The Prince’s Trust’s staff, I certainly owe so much to them. The volunteers of The Prince’s Trust because again nothing would happen without all the mentors and all these wonderful people. You won’t believe it that 46 years ago when I started this exercise, I had to go round the country endlessly trying to recruit volunteers, trying to recruit mentors. I went to one meeting after another in different parts of the country with people sitting behind the table like this [crossed arms] and I had to try to convince them that it would be a good thing to do, to provide some help and advice to these young – and eventually we put together, bit by bit, something like 7000 volunteers around the country. So I owe them an enormous debt of gratitude, and obviously all the other Award supporters who have made this event possible.  

When I created The Prince’s Trust in 1976 to help improve the lives of disadvantaged young people, it was because I was so acutely aware of the challenges that they faced. Over the years some of the challenges have changed, but the overall mission of giving people self-confidence, self-esteem and better opportunities, remains the same. In that time, we have helped over one million young people – I always get so annoyed that we hadn’t got to one million long ago. We had to keep counting people who were still going through the system, even though we were actually helping 50,000 people a year. I think my maths is bad! So we have helped over one million young people transform their lives and The Prince’s Trust now works in 18 countries across the Commonwealth and beyond. 

During the past year, we celebrated the launch of The Prince’s Trust in the United States of America and St Lucia, and we have supported many thousands of young people in Australia; in Barbados, where I went about three years ago, where Lionel Richie was – he has been wonderfully supportive! And Tom Jones turned up! Somebody had to look after Tom – a bit more of a challenge that! And also in Canada; in Ghana; in Greece – I was in Greece recently and it’s very encouraging to see the difference that Prince’s Trust International is making there. People have been able to start their own businesses – there’s a lot of youth unemployment in Greece so the impact is bit by bit. And then in India, we have quite a lot of relationships; Jamaica; Jordan; Kenya, as you saw; Malaysia, Malta, New Zealand, Pakistan, Rwanda and Trinidad & Tobago. And before I drop dead, I want to make sure we can get even further! I am thrilled that despite all challenges, some of you have been able to join the celebrations today. 

Now, The Prince’s Trust has seen at first-hand how, when young people face real stumbling blocks at transitional points in their lives, they can become caught up in a devastating downwards spiral. 

I recently heard some statistics from The Prince’s Trust Youth Index that highlighted:

  • A quarter (24%) of young people in the U.K. claim that the pandemic has “destroyed” their career aspirations and
  • A quarter of young people (23%) do not feel confident about their future work.

These statistics are deeply concerning. But I know, with the experience it has gained, that my Trust is equal to the challenge.  

I have mentioned the challenges. But there are also opportunities. As we look forward, it is enormously encouraging to learn that the same research shows that in the United Kingdom, and in the seven other countries where The Prince’s Trust works, young people are tremendously aspirational, and 74% are interested in a green job which helps tackle climate change. So, I am so glad that The Prince’s Trust is determined to help support young people into employment and enterprise in the rapidly changing global market, including of course the fast-growing green economy. 

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, as we begin to look back on the storm we have weathered, it is a source of the most enormous pride to hear how The Prince’s Trust’s Award winners have thrived, despite all the dreadful difficulties they have faced. Each of the winners has overcome immense barriers, as we have heard, to get where they are now and have shown the most impressive resolve. As I said earlier, I am enormously proud of all of you and cannot possibly congratulate you enough. I hope today’s experience hasn’t been too much of a shock to your system, so that you can recover with a stiff drink at the end!

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Prince’s Trust’s mission is more relevant now than ever, particularly as the pandemic has made the need to help young people prepare for the world of work even more urgent. Every young person deserves a chance to succeed and the young people here today have shown that, with the right support, they can fulfil their potential and go on to achieve tremendous things.

I just pray that you will all leave here feeling really inspired about the work of The Prince’s Trust and that we can go on giving young people hope, with your help Ladies and Gentlemen, showing them that there is always a path to a brighter future at the end of the day.