Plans to provide National Citizen Service (NCS) pilots for 16-year-olds next summer have been announced by Prime Minister David Cameron.
The pilots are expected to provide about 10,000 places for school-leavers to take part in activities which could include outdoor challenges and helping the local community.
At a Downing Street reception yesterday, Mr Cameron and Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude met voluntary sector workers and young people who have completed similar programmes to hear about their experiences.
NCS is a key part of the Big Society agenda, which was outlined by the PM in Liverpool on Monday, and it aims to give teenagers the chance to learn new skills that will help them to make a positive contribution to their community.
The PM said:
There is a tragic waste of potential in this country today. The young people of this country are as passionate and idealistic as any generation before – perhaps more passionate. But too many teenagers appear lost and feel their lives lack shape and direction.
National Citizen Service will help change that. A kind of non-military national service, it’s going to mix young people from different backgrounds in a way that doesn’t happen right now. It’s going to teach them what it means to be socially responsible. Above all it’s going to inspire a generation of young people to appreciate what they can achieve and how they can be part of the Big Society.
The pilots will bring together youngsters from different backgrounds to develop life skills and understand the concept of civic responsibility. Participants will spend a minimum of 10 days and nights away from home during the programme and on completion, will take part in a graduation ceremony.
The government also hopes to offer outstanding NCS graduates the opportunity to take part in a programme of social action projects in developing countries.