Jayden Thompson from Sharks Community Trust HITZ programme has been named a HITZ Hero 2021 by Premiership Rugby, in recognition of his achievements despite the challenges of lockdown.
HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s flagship education and employability programme, working with more than 2,000 14-23 year-olds across England every year. The aim of HITZ is to help young people classified as NEET (not in education, employment or training) turn their lives around through gaining qualifications and developing their personal, employability and life skills. Jayden is one of six outstanding young individuals who have been named HITZ Heroes this year.
With the Government reporting unemployment for young people increasing by 11% since the start of the pandemic, and that by the end of last year there were an estimated 800,000 16-24yr olds in the UK classified as NEET, Premiership Rugby’s commitment to supporting and developing individuals like this has only become more steadfast.
Jayden joined the HITZ programme at Sale Sharks Rugby Club in September 2020 at a time when he was looking for a sense of belonging and support in establishing an achievable career pathway. Jayden left school aged 14 but after an unsuccessful period of home schooling he finished school in year 9 with no GCSEs.
Growing up as the only male figure within his family, Jayden felt pressure to support his mum and younger sisters, and this had an impact on his mental health. Alongside the disappointment of failing to gain qualifications, this has led to him feeling socially isolated, spending lots of time at home.
Jayden quickly became a leader within the HITZ group and embraced all opportunities for work experience. He volunteered for local community projects, including the LifeChurch Project where he was part of a team that provided 120 Christmas Dinners for vulnerable people within the Sale community. He also worked with The Bread and Butter Thing where he made food parcels and served meals to vulnerable people.
Jon Travena from Sharks Community Trust nominated Jayden for a HITZ Hero award in recognition of the barriers he has overcome and the progress he has made.
Jayden hasn’t had the easiest start in life, but where he is now is something to be incredibly proud of. He’s passionate about the work he is doing with his community as he believes it is important to give back, and academically he’s progressing well. He’s on track to leave the programme with a Level 2 Employability qualification alongside Functional Skills English and Maths.
He now has his sights set on a job in construction and has recently interviewed with the Salford College apprenticeship scheme. Jayden deserves this recognition and I’m looking forward to seeing how his future career in construction develops.
Wayne Morris, Community and Corporate Social Responsibility Director at Premiership Rugby said,
Jayden is a shining example of how determination coupled with the right support and opportunity can go a long way to changing lives for the better. He has achieved so much in such a short space of time and his commitment to his family and his local community is commendable.
Pausing the delivery of HITZ during the pandemic was never an option for us. With the help of our partner clubs like Sale Sharks we have continued to provide much needed support for young people like Jayden at a time when it is needed more than ever.
Supported by the CVC Foundation, Wooden Spoon and SCL Education Group, nearly 16,000 young people have engaged in the HITZ programme since it was created in 2008.
Sarah Webb from Wooden Spoon, the children’s charity of rugby, added,
Jayden should be so proud of what he has achieved. His success is exactly why Wooden Spoon supports HITZ. We believe wholeheartedly that every young person should have the opportunity to access life changing projects to help them turn their lives around and set them on a positive path to a brighter future.