AS the exam results hour approaches, youngsters across the district will be turning their attention to the future, and the various career paths available to them.

SkillForce is a national education charity, based in Bradford, working with schools to transform young people's lives. It supports children and young people in more than 200 primary and secondary schools across the UK, preparing them for their next steps in education, work or training.

With the Duke of Cambridge as its Royal patron, SkillForce draws on the skills of predominantly ex-services personnel who have completed active service and now work in communities inspiring young people to succeed. Instructors deliver motivational mentoring and education programmes aimed at developing self confidence, resilience and character.

Former British Army soldier Alex Young is a Skillforce instructor working with schools in the region. The 27-year-old, from Keighley, said: “I learned so much from being in the Army; they drum into you the importance of resilience, leadership, courage and discipline. To be able to pass on those values and the importance of respect for others is fantastic, and a real privilege. It’s very rewarding to see the change in young people. Some children were shy or scared of speaking up in class or reticent to try new challenges, and we see them develop confidence and team working skills.”

He added: “Other young people have really struggled at school, often because of disruption in their home lives. One student was aggressive and disruptive but he has calmed down and is now developing self belief. He is determined to pass his maths and English qualifications, whereas before his behaviour was so chaotic he didn't have the motivation or focus.”

Alex, a former Bingley Grammar School pupil who was a rugby league coach at 16 and plays for Keighley Albion, joined the Army in 2012. “I loved the job," he says. "I trained with the Army Air Corps and was a ground crewman, working with attack helicopters.

“I loved the skills I learned in the Army, including map reading, discipline and firing a weapon, and I was good at them. I matured quickly and played rugby for the Army."

He added: "I heard about SkillForce and it was the perfect fit for me - being able to use my military training and skills to help the next generation. I have now completed a teacher training qualification with the charity.”

SkillForce offers a range of programmes for nine to 19-year-olds to help them develop self confidence as well as teamworking and problem-solving skills. Now the charity is looking to expand its work with schools in the region.

The charity is focusing on growing interest in ‘character education’ - developing non-academic traits that can help young people get on in education, work and life, which also benefits their psychological wellbeing.

A recent report by cross party think tank Demos highlighted research showing how factors such as resilience and empathy can have a profound impact on young people, and can be developed through interventions in and out of the classroom. The report, Mind Over Matter, revealed that academic success, wellbeing and mental health depend not just on what young people know, but on the development of character, social and emotional skills, and other non academic traits.

Ben Slade, Chief Executive of SkillForce, said: “We work with schools to help transform lives, enabling children and young people to build character, self confidence and resilience. There is growing recognition that schools can play a vital role supporting the development of character traits that will help pupils to get on in education and life. Our ambition is to become the leading provider of character education and training in the UK.”

Based on Drill Parade in the city, SkillForce recently worked with eight regional schools in areas including Bradford, helping to improve pupils’ aspirations, attainment, attendance and behaviour. The programmes offered include the Junior Prince’s Award, for youngsters aged nine to 14, which includes teamwork skills, problem-solving activities, a First Aid award, a community action project and a residential trip.

Perry Yeardley, 16, of Bradford recently completed a SkillForce programme. He said: “I couldn’t concentrate at school, I didn’t like being stuck in a classroom. But since I’ve been attending SkillForce sessions, my behaviour has improved. The staff listen to you and want to help. I have learned respect and how to control my temper, and am planning my next steps, signing up to a training course with the Army.”

* Visit or call 01623 827651, or contact Amber Scarth, SkillForce Area Manager, on or Katie Allen, SkillForce Regional Manager, on