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Saints Club Apprenticeship Scheme acclaimed

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The scheme, which began last September, takes on 16-18-year-olds who are not in education or employment and invites them onto a 26-week programme working behind the scenes at Franklin's Gardens while gaining several qualifications in the process.

From more than 100 who applied, 10 were selected to learn the ropes in a number of areas, from ticketing and media, to helping in the study centre, retail and conferencing. Already it has proved a real success, with many of those involved looking at longer-term employment over the summer.

The scheme goes up against Saracens' The Get Onside Project on June 27th at the House of Commons.

"It is fantastic that we have been nominated and we are delighted to go up against Saracens," said Saints' community executive Rowland Winter.

"For the scheme to be recognised is brilliant, and to win would be even better and will help with our recruitment for September when we will be taking on 16 new apprentices.

"We only started last September when 100-or-so applied and we had to put them through a pre-apprenticeship programme, almost like a work experience, before we selected 10 apprentices and they started in January on a 26-week programme."

The scheme is run alongside Barnfield College in Luton. The apprentices spend two days a week in a department with the Saints, and a further day studying for a level two NVQ certificate in Activity Leadership.

"They also get their qualifications so they can be ready to coach rugby in primary schools, first aid and child welfare certificates, and get up to speed with key skills such as maths and English," explained Winter.

"It is six months of experience working at a professional rugby club with all of the opportunities that brings.

"In Northampton, 17 percent of all 16 to18-year-olds are unemployed so there is quite a big need for something like this.

"Taking on kids who maybe haven't done so well at school, or who are stuck in limbo and are unsure of what to do has been rewarding for us.

"Of the 10 we have at the moment, two or three will stay on with us for our summer camps and then potentially do a bit more.

"One or two more will be working throughout the summer in our study centre, and the rest will be given opportunities with some of our 300-400 sponsors from all different fields who we will contact and give a reference based on their six months with us."

The awards ceremony is now in its seventh year and is being run in association with The All Party Parliamentary Rugby Union Group, Premiership Rugby, partners Aviva, Land Rover and J.P. Morgan Asset Management, and media partner SportBusiness Group.

The winners will be announced at an evening reception at the historic Churchill Room at the House of Commons. Both the Saints and last year's winners Saracens are also the finalists for the Aviva Club of the Year.

Winter added: "It is always nice to beat Saracens in a final so hopefully we can do that, we still have that competitive rugby side to us!"

For the results of the All Parliamentary Premiership Rugby Community Awards see www.premiershiprugby.com

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