Tuesday 17 May 2016 4:45 am

The Prince’s Trust's 40th anniversary: How business is helping deprived young people flourish

Today Buckingham Palace hosts a garden party to mark the fortieth anniversary of The Prince’s Trust, the Prince of Wales’ oldest and largest charity. It will be attended by some of the thousands of young people whose lives have been turned around by this amazing organisation, along with volunteers, supporters and staff.

As chairman of the Trust, the occasion will fill me with pride and serve as a reminder of the crucial role we play in so many people’s lives. Since our inception in 1976, we have aimed to help youngsters from vulnerable and disadvantaged backgrounds get into some form of employment, education or training. In these 40 years, we have helped over 825,000 young people to better their lives.

It’s my privilege to meet some of the youngsters, and their stories are moving and inspirational in equal measure. It is not uncommon to hear things like, “if it weren’t for The Prince’s Trust, I’d be in prison or dead” and at a recent end of programme ceremony, one youngster said, “Thank you for saving my life.”

The success of The Prince’s Trust has relied on our ground-breaking programmes, the leadership of our founder and president the Prince of Wales, and also our partnerships. And at the heart of our partnerships is our relationship with business. I take a particularly keen interest in this as an entrepreneur, having founded businesses like Travelex and Doddle, and led companies like the Office Group.

The Trust’s relationship with business is two dimensional, unusually for a charity: the first as a creator of businesses and the second through the partnerships we forge with companies to fund and help run our programmes.

Let me describe this in more detail. First, one of the things that The Prince’s Trust is most famous for is helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to set up a business. Since the enterprise programme was established in 1983, it has led to the creation of 80,000 firms across a range of sectors. The businesses have shown endurance too. Recent research showed that 73 per cent of companies created by the Trust were still trading after three years, 10 per cent higher than the national average.

On a recent visit to our Poplar Centre in Tower Hamlets, I saw for myself the outstanding quality of the enterprise programme. Youngsters are given a basic grounding in how to start a firm and then mentoring from one of our business volunteers. Their business plans are scrutinised and only those deemed ready will be given Trust backing to start their company. We encourage youngsters to think long and hard about this.

By reaching deep into the heart of some of our most deprived communities, the Trust is helping to ensure that the entrepreneurial talent of people in these groups is not squandered. A recent report showed that in the 10 per cent most deprived areas, people are almost 50 per cent less likely to be self-employed than the national average. The Trust’s work is helping to counter this trend and to boost entrepreneurship and self-employment in some of our deprived communities.

The second major way in which the Trust interacts with business is through its partnerships with corporates, including some of the largest in the UK. These companies share concerns about disengagement and disillusionment among sections of the youth population, and want to help equip this generation with the necessary skills to flourish in the modern workplace. Some of our outstanding partnerships are with HSBC, M&S and NatWest, but we also have some fruitful partnerships with thriving companies outside the FTSE 100.

In these two ways, The Prince’s Trust acts as both a partner and a parent of companies. It provides a template for other charities in forging alliances with businesses. With youth unemployment in the UK still at well over 600,000, the Trust’s role is as necessary as ever. Our strong track record over 40 years and big ambitions mean that we can face the future with confidence and hope.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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