Giving adults and young people the skills and qualifications they need to find employment is an important part of the work of Chelsea FC Trust.
Professional football is about a great deal more than just what happens on the pitch. And at Chelsea Football Club the need to be a lot more than a football club is recognised by its suite of employability courses for the local community, offered by the Chelsea FC Foundation. These courses are not just for young people from the hard-to-reach 16-24 age group, but for adults too. Carl Southwell, Enterprise and Employability Manager at the Foundation explains what they do.
"Chelsea is about a lot more than football. We have an amazing brand, which helps us to raise our social agenda and invest in the local community around issues affecting them,” he says. “Like most clubs we use sports participation to bring in young men who enjoy the opportunity to study at the stadium. Our facilities and venue make us quite a draw for this younger age group, but we don’t just concentrate on them. We also offer courses with no age limit to help local people acquire skills and confidence to join or re-join the job market. And in older age groups we have more women than men taking our courses.”
The Chelsea FC Foundation chose OCN London as their awarding body because education staff at Chelsea had worked with them at previous football clubs and the service was perfect for their needs. “Our learners get a Chelsea certificate which is prestigious, but we also accredit our courses through OCN London because this gives them added value,” says Carl. “Accreditation is a tangible outcome and for beneficiary it ensures the quality of delivery as well as the content.”
The Foundation runs courses leading to OCN London qualifications from levels 1 to 3 in employability, enterprise, sport and active leisure. Most courses are off-the-shelf rather than bespoke, but some elements have been added to make them more attractive to the different client groups Chelsea seeks to reach. “For the first time last year (in 2015) we decided to tackle adult education rather than just offering chances for young people. It’s been a really big success and has enabled us to look at taking on more staff to the community and ensure our courses continue to be a success,” says Carl.
One of the employability courses is based around enterprise, encouraging people to start up their own businesses. So far 37 per cent of their learners have gone into full-time employment as a result of one of the courses and several have received enterprise allowance funding to start their own businesses. Others decided to return to full-time education and some have gone into volunteering work. “We’ve had some learners here for six months going through all levels with us, so it’s been very successful and appreciated by our community,” says Carl.
The Club has good connections with JobCentre Plus but is also active in schools. “We know a Chelsea badge is very appealing to this group,“ says Carl.
The appeal of Chelsea and the support it gives to the community reaches well beyond its immediate vicinity right across London. Now the Club is thinking about looking at developing its education wing internationally. The idea is to spread the Chelsea legacy far wider and help to train football coaches too and, admits Carl, “perhaps unearth the next superstar.” But for the most part the education department at The Chelsea FC Foundation is about furthering employment chances based around education. “Other countries also need people to be upskilled and thus help their local economies. We are currently looking at opportunities to do that.”