Ladies and gentlemen, I am so grateful to the organizers of today’s marvellous celebration…..
Can I just say, before I go any further, how enormously grateful I am to June Sarpong. She is a wonderful host and comes back here year after year to help in her own inimitable way.
I would also like to give a huge thanks to all The Prince’s Trust’s wonderful Ambassadors. We are very lucky to receive the continued support and enthusiasm from all these amazing people who come here year after year, as well as to events all over the country. All our Ambassadors help to make such a difference with their ability to encourage, inspire and enthuse. What they have done today is also immensely valuable, it really is!
I must also thank all our sponsors. For example, the Football Association Premier League, Professional Footballers’ Association and the Football Foundation which have had a wonderful partnership with The Prince’s Trust for the last ten years. This is another area of support that makes an astonishing contribution to the whole enterprise that is The Trust.
Sir Fred Goodwin is another person I want to thank, because we could not do this without the aid of such a hardworking Chairman. It is jolly useful having someone as Chairman who also has an enormous headquarters that we can occasionally use for meetings! His contribution is quite remarkable particularly as he is also Chief Executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group and still comes back to help year after year.
I must not forget that none of what we do could happen without our Chief Executive, Martina Millburn. In her first two years she has done a remarkable job. She leads and inspires and I think she has achieved remarkable results as you can see from the success of all the different offices around the country and all the staff working for The Prince’s Trust - we are incredibly lucky.
We have something like 7,000 volunteers, mentors and advisers – and they also all play a truly remarkable role. For me, the celebrations last year, the 30th anniversary of The Trust, gave me wonderful pride.
There were nearly 7,000 volunteers there for the celebrations and it was wonderful to see so many people who we have recruited over the years and who have then gone on to recruit other people - they have all made a fantastic difference.
The statistics are constantly changing but it seems as though we can say that 68,000 businesses have been set up since we started The Prince’s Trust Business Programme in 1983. Without the volunteer mentors, we would not have been able to achieve this or sustain the number of people still trading after three years – so we owe them all an immense debt of gratitude. Moving forward, we need to look at how we develop our game from here and how we can expand our activities to make an even greater difference in this, our 31st year.
One of things I want to achieve is the establishment of an alumni association. When you think how many people we have set up in business over the last 24 years, you would be amazed at the number of people who are now millionaires. One gentleman, whom I met last year, started work in his grandmother’s attic in Huddersfield, and has now been in business for 20 years. He called his design company Attik and now has offices in Leeds, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, with clients including the BBC, Microsoft and numerous others. These are some of the people whom I think can make an enormous difference in the future, again by developing the effectiveness of The Prince’s Trust.
Most of all, I think that to-day these awards have helped demonstrate what we are really celebrating – the achievement of that sometimes rare commodity of confidence. I still think at the end of the day that one of the aims of The Prince’s Trust is to encourage young people to develop those essential ingredients of self-belief and self-esteem. I know for me, and all the staff who have worked so hard, that it is wonderful to see somebody, just one person, whose life has been transformed by gaining that vital ingredient of self belief – and this gives me an enormous sense of pride.
In particular, there are many young ex-offenders whom The Prince’s Trust has helped enormously in turning their lives around. I have had letters from ex-offenders who said, as you heard in some of these film clips, that if it had not been for The Trust their lives would have been hopeless. To explore this issue, I thought that we should hold a seminar for all these people, plus representatives from the prisons, criminal justice system, The Probation Service, The Home Office, Police and others, to hear from these young ex-offenders what it was that had actually turned their lives around.
The results from this seminar have been fascinating and, for example, we now have one ex-offender, whom I have got to know quite well, Mark Johnson, who is now an adviser to a probation board in Dorset. I suspect he will never have the wool pulled over his eyes! We also hope that some ex-offenders will become mentors for other young people, and it is this virtuous circle I hope we can try and create in general with all The Trust’s activities. We need to harness the success of what The Prince’s Trust has been doing for the last 31 years to bring back those who have already benefitted to help others. All these achievements so far, ladies and gentleman, have given me more reward and more pride that almost anything else.
The only problem now, as this event gets even more popular, is that we have outgrown most venues in London. London theatres are now not big enough to accommodate us and so we have moved to the Barbican Centre. I dread to think what will happen in a few years time - it will probably become bigger than a plenary session of Chinese National People’s Congress.
This growth is a demonstration I think of what all of you, particularly the staff of The Trust, are doing out there to make an extraordinary difference to peoples’ lives. Even if we change only one person’s life the effort will be worth it. This is demonstrated by the fact that there are now something like 550,000 people who have now had their lives helped in some way by The Prince’s Trust.
I am deeply grateful to you all. I want to offer my heartfelt congratulations to all the award-winners and I look forward to seeing how they develop their talents and potential in the years to come.