THE popular and colourful rugby charity ‘Wooden Spoon’ has pledged nearly £400,000 to help the SRU use rugby to tackle youth unemployment across Scotland.
Wooden Spoon was launched in 1983 by a group of English rugby players and supporters in the wake of their ‘Wooden Spoon’ end to the Five Nations Championship.
The idea was to hold events where money was raised and targeted at helping disadvantaged children and young people, but it has grown across Britain and Ireland, taken on by leading internationalists from all home nations and myriad volunteers, who are easily identifiable by their striped ties and jackets that include the colours of all four nations.
Gavin Hastings is the president of Wooden Spoon in Scotland and, working closely with Scottish chairman Charlie Bryden, has agreed with the SRU and the Brian Maguire Trust a new three-year partnership that will invest £360,000 into the ‘Game On’ programme.
With youth unemployment in Scotland a significant problem, currently standing at 17 percent, ‘Game on’ has been working well in England to engage 16 to 19-year-olds not in employment, education or training in rugby, by providing a focus for their energies and instilling the rugby values of discipline, teamwork and respect.
In the new Scottish project, employability training will also be provided by Rathbone and Wooden Spoon will work with Scottish employers to uncover apprenticeships and job opportunities.
Hastings explained: “Wooden Spoon has already been supporting Scottish Rugby [the SRU] to deliver opportunities for young people through community rugby and we have seen success in building confidence, self-belief and personal skills among young people taking part.
“‘Game On Scotland’ is an extended programme bringing together rugby with specialist training which will help move the youngsters into jobs or education. It is thanks to the generosity of the Maguire family and to all Wooden Spoon members and people who support our fundraising events in Scotland throughout the year that we can now take our community programme to the next level.”
Latest statistics show that youth unemployment in Scotland currently stands at 17 per cent, with the jobless total north of the Border close to 200,000. Wooden Spoon has been running ‘Spoon New Community Project’ in Inverclyde and the Levenmouth area of Fife for the past two years, where young people identified by youth workers and school guidance teachers are referred to the programme spoken of by Hastings.
Mikey Nesbit, a 16-year-old from Methil, is one of the success stories. He said that he was in regular trouble at school and leading a chaotic lifestyle when he was referred by Fife Active Schools, the sportscotland-funded service, to one of Scottish Rugby’s early community programmes backed by the Wooden Spoon.
Over the past three years Nesbit has been part of a group working with Fife rugby development officer Graham Smith, Active Schools and Youth Work, acquiring and developing life skills through learning to play and coach rugby. He believes that his behaviour has changed significantly because he has discovered a sense of purpose and developed confidence in himself.
Having been involved in practical and workshop sessions, nutrition and physical activity classes; and talks from role models, including Glasgow and Scotland 7s player Peter Horne, who related his experiences of coming through the Bell Baxter HS and Howe of Fife RFC to professional rugby, Nesbit has now taken on a role championing sport in Kirkland HS, helping to coach younger age groups, and supporting Fife Active Schools holiday programmes.
Neil Carrie, the partnership projects manager at Scottish Rugby, commented: “Wooden Spoon’s support for the earlier ‘New Communities’ programme enabled us to demonstrate the positive impact rugby can have on young peoples’ lives.
“The new ‘Game On’ programme will allow us to take a major step forward, combining the many positive opportunities that rugby offers, with the expertise of Rathbone in helping young people acquire recognized employability skills and qualifications.
“Working together with Wooden Spoon, Rathbone, Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors, and all of our partners, we will be able to offer young people a range of opportunities to develop skills, improve health and physical activity, and the chance to gain vital work experience leading to training and employment.
“We are grateful to Wooden Spoon for their ongoing support for rugby in Scotland, and the Maguire Family Trust for this significant new programme.”