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Time to make a leap of faith, charity boss tells business leaders

Soon after taking over at the organisation which improves the lives of young people across Milton Keynes and Bucks, Jenifer climbed a 30 metre telegraph pole at their Caldecotte activity centre -and jumped off onto a trapeze.

She told a MK Business Leaders Partnership breakfast briefing that colleagues at Action4Youth had also done it. “And we lived to tell the tale,” she said.

Jenifer and development director Nick Lund brought MK BLP members and guests up to date on Action4Youth’s ambitious plans for its Inspiration Programme for young people, and explained how business can play a role.

Action4Youth has 91 youth clubs providing safe environments for young people to meet, have fun and access organised activities. It runs the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme in MK and Bucks, is growing tomorrow’s young leaders and the UK’s top deliverer of the government’s National Citizen Service programme, with 350 young people taking part this year.

Action4Youth runs two outdoor activities centres, Longrigg in Cumbria and at Caldecotte Lake in Milton Keynes offering sailing, caving and climbing. Nick said: “We create opportunities for young people to have real challenging experiences, extend their horizons, see things from a different perspective and show them what they can achieve.”

The charity, which has been operating for 71 years, is now looking to the future and conversations were taking place with various people including the business community, said Jenifer.

She said: “The message we get is that business finds it hard to engage with young people, to get them to understand what business does. So we are bringing together different sectors to develop something that will help young people better engage with society.

“The Inspiration Programme lets young people see the world, see what is out there and their part in it,” she said. The course looks at business; the military; faith; police and justice; arts and culture; and health and well-being. Completing it will go on a young person’s CV or personal statement.

“Young people will get accredited skills in leadership, team building and communicating while gaining self-confidence and understanding themselves,” Jenifer said. “And we want business involved so that young people can meet and engage with real entrepreneurs who have done well in life and can inspire them with their experiences.”

She said involvement could be as little as four hours once or twice a year.

“Bring your colleagues along or take young people into your workplace.” And there are other ways business can support Action4Youth including sponsorship and naming rights, and the charity can host company team-building and adventure experiences.

“We are a charity but we act like a business and our product is the next generation, our investment in the future,” she said.

MKBLP chair Dr Philip Smith said: “This has been an interesting look at a very worthwhile organisation that is doing valuable work among our young people, and businesses who get involved will find it rewarding in many ways.”