An educational charity in the UK has teamed up with Premier League football clubs to encourage students from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter into vocational education.

Leadership Through Sport & Business (LTSB) provides school leavers aged between 16 and 24 from deprived parts of the UK the opportunity to study towards careers in accountancy, business and finance. 

Offering the chance to be involved with footballs clubs such as Chelsea, West Ham or Aston Villa is the charity's novel approach to preparing students for apprenticeships with blue-chip companies.   

‘Football is the hook’, says Caroline Adair, director of the programme.

‘For many of our students it is often difficult to leave their peer groups to continue further education.’ The chance to work with Premier League clubs not only motivates young people, but also helps them explain their decision to others.

Students who are accepted enrol on a 16 month programme, which begins with four months preparation for employment. During this time students study for an Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) Level 2 qualification at college three days a week and on the other days LTSB and the football club foundations provide enrichment activities, employability and life skills training as well as a Sports Leadership or Football Association (FA) Level 1 coaching qualification. Following this, students embark on a year’s paid AAT Level 3 apprenticeship, while continuing to attend college and LTSB’s personal and professional development sessions one day a week and volunteering for the football club foundation in their own time.

As part of their work with a football club foundation, students plan and deliver coaching sessions for children and young people, and some participate in the Premier League’s Kicks programme, which sees them organise activities in deprived areas of UK cities. 

Adom Akuamoah, who emigrated to the UK from Ghana when he was 16, said: 

I love coaching with the West Ham United Foundation. Working with children is really hard, but it means you need to have attention to detail, people skills and confidence – which I was able to put into my work too.  

As part of its commitment to preparing people from disadvantaged backgrounds for employment, the programme helps students to feel confident in professional environments. 

‘Many of our students are not used to travelling by train, let alone being in the offices of international banks or accountancy firms’, says Caroline.

‘Almost all of those who enter the programme are not ready for employment’. 

The programme has been successful in transforming this. Over 200 students have enrolled since 2012 and 87 per cent of those who have completed the course are now in employment or full time education. 

The programme is committed to helping people who are often excluded from upwardly mobile opportunities. Over two thirds of participants are from black or other minority ethnic backgrounds and although both football and accountancy are industries dominated by men, the programme seeks to reach young women. LTSB organise events specifically for female students with speakers who demonstrate and celebrate the achievements of women in football and accountancy. 

Atera Rahman, a female student, said:

‘The guest speakers were one of my favourite elements of the course… We were able to take a little from each inspirational speaker and apply it to our lives.’ 

Speaking to the programme's director, it is clear that LTSB sees its role as holistic and recognises that all students, but particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, may sometimes require additional pastoral support. Where necessary, members of the LTSB team work in collaboration with staff from the colleges and football club foundations to help students through challenging situations. 

Alisa, whose name has been changed, was a victim of sustained domestic abuse before studying on the programme. She said: 

I am so thankful to both LTSB and West Ham United Foundation! This programme has changed my life and I had never imagined I would be in a position where I am working and studying at the same time. They have continually supported me through the ups and downs and motivated me to strive for my best.

The programme has recently expanded from London and Birmingham, to Manchester, offering students the chance to work with Manchester City Football Club Foundation. There are also plans to engage additional football clubs and reach more young people through sports in the coming years.

If you are feeling inspired by the idea of using sports to engage students in vocational education, click here to access examples of worksheets that incorporate sports into maths problems.

To read more about the LTSB and their programme, visit their website here.

If you would like to comment on this article, please email and join the debate. If you would like to submit your own article, find out how here.