Launched in association with TXM Recruit and in the week before the first ever HITZ awards, the Business Club gave the opportunity for representatives from Premiership Rugby, Northampton Saints and local education provider Northampton College to talk about HITZ, its background and aims with local business managers.
More importantly, five youngsters from HITZ Northampton told the audience about their experiences, as did former England and British and Irish Lions player Jason Robinson, whose own background is reflective of those 16-19-year-olds that the programme targets.
Spearheaded by project officer Matt Goode and Northampton College’s Chris Dawson HITZ Northampton has grown dramatically, from a handful of participants in its first year to 50 in 2014/15, and further expansions likely next year. And Robinson is impressed by how those young people who attended the Business Club had used the programme to turn their lives around.
“How can you not be inspired when you hear some of the stories?” the World Cup winner commented. “I came a little bit early and spoke to some of the lads who were here tonight from the Northampton programme, and they are great role models.
“Ultimately they are going on to a positive outcome, they talk about how the programme and education has helped them. It’s not just about rugby, it’s about maths and English and IT, and those are the things you’ll need in life.
“Some of the people who were here tonight had only recently heard about the HITZ programme, and I’m hopeful that they will get involved in some way or form, whether it is offering some training, putting us in touch with other businesses who can help, or taking one of the young people on as an employee.”
From starting out as a programme designed to help with crime prevention, HITZ has taken the next step into education and preparing its young people for work and contributing to society.
The new Business Clubs – which will be rolled out across the 12 Premiership clubs – are an important stage in this process, and Premiership Rugby’s Helen Clayton says that engaging with the local business community is key in ensuring that HITZ can achieve its aims.
“We’ve now got all these young people who have been coming through the programme and being successful on it,” she said. “They’ve learned how to work and to turn up on time, and we need somewhere for them to go next.
“We’re now at a point where we’re confident in the programme and confident in the young people, and we need businesses and local community people to come and get involved and offer work placements, visits, or anything else that engages the young people and puts them under different sorts of pressures and exposes them to different environments.
“TXM Recruit bring something new to the table. Barclays have been helping with money skills, CV writing and employability skills, but TXM know how to get people into employment and finding the right places for our young people to go next, casting the net as wide as possible into different industries.
“HITZ is not just a sporting project. It’s a project that also produces better adults and more employable people.”
Given how well HITZ has taken hold in Northampton, Helen said that it was natural to launch the Business Clubs at Franklin’s Gardens.
“Northampton is one of our most established projects, and the Saints is at the heart of its community, engaging with people and local businesses. And with our numbers being greatest at Northampton it made sense to launch the Business Clubs at Franklin’s Gardens,” she added. “It is part of the extension of the relationship between HITZ and Northampton Saints.
“Matt Goode is a fantastic member of staff, there has been great buy-in from the club, and Northampton College has been amazing as an educational provider. Chris Dawson from the College is like a man possessed; he understands the young people and the value in getting some of them out of a traditional learning environment. Both Chris and the College are great partners to have on the programme.”
One interested observer at the Business Club was Phil Dowson, who combines his playing career as one of the senior members of the Northampton Saints squad with his work as managing director of Nth Degree Imaging.
“It was tremendously enlightening and eye-opening and I enjoyed listening to the lads who are benefitting from the course,” he said. “It’s an unbelievably positive thing to be happening, not just in the community but also here in the grounds.
“We see the guys training and doing the rugby skills, but they are also learning maths and English and it’s positive for some young lads who maybe have had a tough break. Every week we talk about work rate, enthusiasm and energy, and these lads show all of that.”
The award winning HITZ programme tackles some of the greatest challenges facing young people today – unemployment, crime and disillusionment. Delivered nationally by Premiership Rugby and funded by national partners Barclays, Comic Relief, Land Rover and Wooden Spoon, HITZ uses rugby to increase young people's resilience, self-reliance and confidence. It gives them the skills to get back into education, vocational training, apprenticeships and employment. Please visit hitzrugby.com to find out more.
If Northampton businesses are interested in becoming a part of the HITZ programme, or would simply like to find out more about how they can give a second chance to a young person who is turning their life around, email Matt Goode – [email protected]amptonsaints.co.uk