When the National Citizen Service was launched in 2011, few could have anticipated the true value of the programme and its rewards for young people.
Initially billed as a ‘non-military national service’, its aim was to mix young people from different backgrounds and teach them what it means to be socially responsible. It was designed to inspire young people and provide them with invaluable opportunities as they embark on that all-important transition into adulthood. But in truth, it’s done so much more than that.
Today, NCS is continuing to grow, with more and more young people taking part every spring, summer and autumn. To date it has helped more than 130,000 15 to 17-year-olds in the UK to grow their confidence, make new friends, develop desirable employment skills and secure a brilliant CV. And UFA has been a huge part of that process. As a local delivery partner, we run a series of fantastic NCS programmes in County Durham, Kirklees, Northamptonshire, Suffolk, Bedfordshire, Lancaster, Accrington and Milton Keynes and it’s one of the most rewarding things we do. As with all of our other programmes, our delivery of NCS is underpinned by these 10 Learning Essentials, its one of the things that makes UFA NCS special.
Yet it’s easy to shine the spotlight on the teenagers and their testimonials of the programme, when in fact the success stories do not end with them.
Parents, guardians and teachers have also noticed that NCS has had a significant effect on their children and pupils, which is why in January this year, the NCS began placing more focus on raising awareness of the programme among adults, so they too can share in the positive results that the scheme has to offer.
Liz saw a dramatic change for the better in her son Jan after he took part in UFA NCS. It even resulted in him finding work, which she firmly believes wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the programme.
She tells us: “Jan came home from school one day, after seeing a presentation about NCS, saying he wanted to get involved. My first thought was, ‘wow! What a big step forward!’ He’s had a tough time at school and lacks self-confidence as a result, so the easiest way, as with so many in his situation, was just to withdraw rather than engage. Even demonstrating that he wanted to be involved was huge for us.”
Liz goes on to explain that Jan had his reservations about attending the programme right up until the last minute, but after a day or two with the leaders and his new friends, he gradually came out of his shell. So much so, that he even scooped an award.
Liz adds: “I picked Jan up, and we chatted about his week. During the course of the conversation, he pulled out a medal, with a turtle on it. I asked him what it was for, and he told me it was recognition for being the person who came out of their shell the most during the week. Only a parent with a shy child can understand how thrilled that made me feel!
“After this, there has been no stopping him, and no problems with engagement with others. Jan loved the residential – in fact, I had to call him to find out what time he wanted picking up! The non-residential week went just as well, as did the community engagement projects. I spent the week dropping him off to do various tasks with the others – all with no qualms whatsoever, and the process has also given Jan the confidence to believe in himself more. He’s chosen a tougher route educationally than he could have done – opting to travel further away in order to do what he wants to do.
“He walked into a part-time job at Waitrose – something I firmly believe would not have happened without his new-found confidence and personal skills.”
Liza says: “I can’t thank NCS enough. I’ve seen a young man that physically grew in stature during this short space of time. And what it’s given him has altered the course of his life for the better. Probably forever.”
So, how does it work and what do parents need to know about the programme? It comes in three phases.
Phase 1: Adventure
They will live with their team at an outdoor activity centre, getting to know each other and experiencing the freedom of being away from home with new friends.
They are then placed in a group of 12-15 young people and together they’ll get the chance to take part in adrenaline-fuelled activities with team mates, such as: rock climbing, canoeing, hiking and archery.
Phase 2: Future
Living away from home in university style accommodation (summer only). They’ll be learning to cook for themselves while gaining valuable life skills that will make for a killer CV. All will learn about the issues facing them, as well as developing new personal skills (teamwork, leadership and communication).
Phase 3: Making A Difference
They will put all the skills and experiences they have learnt into practice as a team, agreeing on a social action project that will really make a mark on your local community.
This is their chance to be part of something amazing – plan their own project, fundraise for it and make it happen. To see some of the fantastic Make a Difference projects from last year take a look at our Social Action newsletter.
We are recruiting! If you’re interested in working as an NCS Team Leader, Team Assistant or Volunteer with UFA, find out more here.