Founded by Scottish football team captain Andy Robertson – and named after his shirt number – AR26 has now partnered with Young Enterprise Scotland to inspire the country’s young people, writes Andrew Collier.

PHILANTHROPY has come to football. The Manchester United star Marcus Rashford has become something of a national treasure for his charity work and particularly for his successful campaign for free school meals for poorer children.

Now the same kind of charitable engagement has come to Scotland. Last November the national team’s captain and Liverpool FC player Andy Robertson launched AR26, an organisation working to provide socially deprived children with opportunities that will give them an equal start in life.

His charity - it is named after his shirt number with Dundee United - has now partnered with Young Enterprise Scotland, the national organisation working to inspire and equip young people to build a rewarding future for themselves regardless of their background.

The aim is for those taking part to reach their full potential through enterprise education.

In the latest AR26 programme, called Summer INSPIRE, a group of 12 young people from challenging backgrounds have joined a four week pilot programme from July 5 to 30 in East Renfrewshire, where Andy Robertson hails from.

They will attend three days a week and the initiative aims to help build their confidence, teamwork abilities and employability skills.

The course started with them building a marquee on the first day at YE Scotland’s hub at Rouken Glen on Glasgow’s south side. This dedicated site is designed to support a large range of activities both indoors and outdoors and is ideal for the AR26 activities.

The participants, who are aged between 15 and 17, attend on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during July. “One of the key things on the programme will be enterprise activity - the aim is that at the end of the four weeks they will develop their own business idea”, explains Mark Armstrong, YES’s Head of Operations.

“We inspire them by introducing a number of different agencies and businesses.

“They come in and do talks, workshops and other activities to inspire the participants and to encourage them to think about the future.

“The young people may then go to school for another year or consider going on to college. We want to create positive outcomes and destinations for them.”

HeraldScotland: Young Enterprise Scotland CEO Geoff LeaskYoung Enterprise Scotland CEO Geoff Leask

The programme is designed to be interesting and varied. So far those taking part have been to the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice shop and warehouse in Glasgow, working alongside volunteers dressing mannequins for the shop front. This provided them with valuable retail experience.

Another activity will be a session hosted by Street Soccer Scotland, at the Pro-Soccer grounds in Rouken Glen Park.

They have also heard from inspirational speakers including David Duke, founder and CEO of the non-profit social enterprise Street Soccer Scotland. This is another football-themed organisation seeking to create positive change in the lives of socially disadvantaged young people.

“They may be considering starting their own business and we want them to be out and about once a week and be inspired by a company.

“We also want them to use what is offered onsite at the hub and learn by doing - getting their hands dirty, if you like”, says Mark Armstrong.

“For instance, some of them are interested in horticulture and want to build planters and a hedgehog house. The programme will end with a celebration on the final day, bringing in some of the partners and marking its success.”

By then, Mark adds, the participants should be able to view the world in a different way. “We teach them teamwork and respect, and the fact that we work with different partners brings a real cultural mix of individuals, skills and backgrounds.

“There’s a lot of nurturing in the programme and it’s fantastic to see them grow and come together. We’re able to show them that there’s a different way of learning. Our programme executives are more mentors than teachers. They’re there to coach them and take them along the way.”

Geoff Leask, who is Young Enterprise Scotland’s CEO, says that life skills development is as important as conventional education.  This, he adds, is why YE Scotland’s hub in Rouken Glen, with its half acre of indoor and outdoor facilities and events and learning spaces, is so important.

“It’s in the heart of the park and a great resource to harness over the summer. The AR26 charity that Andy Robertson has set up is passionate about providing young people in Scotland with a chance.

“It’s all about investing in them, nurturing development skills, promoting practical experiences and helping them map out future pathways. Those taking part are all at a very decisive age. It’s a really practical mix of learning experiences.”

The AR26 charity says it wants to ensure that every young person feels supported by giving them their first chances in life and opening up their minds to what may be available to them. It can also help them in planning their journey to their desired destination.

Those working for the organisation believe that the real value of the programme comes in the fact that it can help to transform participants lives by providing them with opportunities that may otherwise be difficult to access.

It believes that these opportunities can create long lasting changes for entire communities by helping them overcome poverty and adverse circumstances, at the same time providing the young people with the vision and support they need.

Lynn Kelly, who is Programme Executive with YE Scotland, says that the partnership with AR26 to deliver the Inspire programme has been a “wonderful opportunity” to collaborate with another charity with similar values.

“Our site at Rouken Glen Park provides an ideal location to help inspire young people into employment opportunities or consider enterprise as a career through practical activities and learning by doing”, she adds.

“The young people will be developing their employability skills and knowledge and working on ideas which will leave a lasting legacy.”

yes.org.uk

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Scotland captain gets a kick from helping youngsters

OPPORTUNITY should be a basic human right for everyone, says Andy Robertson.

The Scotland captain believes that his own experiences have taught him that no-one can achieve anything on their own.

“We all need other people”, he adds.

“We all need help, we need support, and more than anything we all need a chance.”

The purpose of the AR26 programme is to invest in young people, nurture first chances, develop skills and promote practical experiences.

“Throughout my career, I have always tried to support charities and good causes, but I wanted to do more.

“There are many parts to my life that make me feel blessed and privileged, but without a doubt, the most significant is the encouragement, help and support of a loving family, amazing friends and brilliant coaches. Without them, and without luck, my circumstances could have been so different.”

He is proud, he says, of the work his charity has done in helping young people in Scotland.

HeraldScotland:

He said: “Our Summer INSPIRE programme will provide support and opportunities to those who through no fault of their own need it most. It means a great deal to be launching it in an area where I grew up.”

Amanda Nisanci, AR26’s Head of Partnerships, says: “We are delighted to have Young Enterprise Scotland as our delivery partner and to be hosting the programme within their amazing site at Rouken Glen Park.

“Both charities see the invaluable difference that partnership working can have on the success of these programmes and the young people involved.”

She adds: “We give great credit to the young people giving up a significant part of their summer holiday to invest in their future and to learn by doing.”

This article is brought to you in association with Young Enterprise Scotland as part of The Herald's Future of Education campaign.