A new specialist training college has been set up to help young Londoners interested in a career in the armed forces or public services gain valuable education and experience.
The Motivational Preparation College for Training (MPCT) in Croydon will work with young people aged 16 to 19 to develop functional skills, physical fitness and self confidence, with a view to achieving paid employment in public services and the armed forces.
The college is the 18th military preparation college in England and Wales to be established by MPCT since it was founded in 1999. Over that time, more than 4,000 young people have gone onto employment, education and training opportunities, while more than 2,000 young people have enlisted into the armed forces.
The London college, which opened on 23 November, is sited on the grounds of Croydon's Meridian High School.
Huw Moores, employer engagement manager at the MPCT, says the decision to move into the capital came after Croydon Council identified there was a need to develop links between young people and the armed forces.
"The local authority understood there was that need," he says. "They got in touch with who they thought was the best suited school within the region who were also in some need of support for our unique type of provision."
Young people usually join military preparation college because they have an aspiration to go into the military or public service sector, he adds, but by focusing on preparing young people for the workplace the skills and experience they learn can be applied more widely.
The college is a "roll-on, roll-off" programme meaning young people do not have to wait until the traditional enrolling months of September or January to join, and although the average length of stay is 27 weeks, it is based on individual need.
The focus is around active learning, meaning learners get to take part in physical activity and functional skills, as well as gain a City and Guilds Level 2 diploma in employability skills and a National Council for Further Education diploma in entry to the armed services - which gives those interested in armed forces careers the best chance to pass selection and complete basic training.
There are also award ceremonies every six months to celebrate success and achievements.
"We believe the worst thing is for young people to sit in classrooms all day long looking at PowerPoint presentations and not engaging them. So we use outdoor learning and put everything that we do in a military context," he says.
"We've embedded functional skills, but more importantly it's aligned to the realistic expectations of what you're going to be doing when you do eventually join the military."
Moores explains the new college is not just open to young people in Croydon but also young people between the age of 16 and 19 across London and the surrounding boroughs.
Commenting on the launch of the college, Martin Giles, head master at Meridian High School, says he is honoured the school has been chosen as the London base.
"The tremendous service that current and ex-military personnel give to our country is all too often underestimated," he says. "This announcement further cements our progress as a structured learning environment that has a strong focus on discipline, manners and tradition, as well as community aspiration and development."
Moores adds that there is potential to open other colleges across the capital.