Twenty-two youngsters, who have all been awarded a scholarship with the West London football club, were invited to see how the new HS2 station, just two miles from Loftus Road, is beginning to take shape. The site tour gave the young people an opportunity to learn more about careers and future development opportunities available to them.
The tour was organised by HS2’s construction partner, Balfour Beatty VINCI SYSTRA (BBVS), in partnership with Emmanuel Afolabi, founder of The Fest Hub, which bridges the gap between sport and education to support young people aiming to break into professional football.
Emmanuel, who is now a civil engineer, established the community interest company after his own dream of becoming a professional footballer stalled. The former Charlton Athletic Academy player, who trained alongside Premier League stars Joe Gomez of Liverpool FC and Ezri Konsa of Aston Villa FC, witnessed first-hand the devastating mental effects of being released by a professional club.
Emmanuel said: “It’s vital we do more to inspire these young people. The harsh reality is they won’t all make it as pro-footballers and we need to prepare and support them for that moment. HS2 is a once-in-a-lifetime project, and today is about opening these young players’ eyes to the amazing career opportunities on their doorstep. HS2 invests in young people from the local area through its apprenticeship and graduate programmes, so this is a partnership we really wanted to strike.”
Ambrose Quashie, HS2’s Skills Manager for Greater London said: “We have a vast construction programme ahead of us, with careers in a whole range of subjects from ecology and IT to engineering and health and safety. We’ve committed to creating 2,000 apprenticeships, with over 950 of these already created, and I’m confident in joining forces with QPR and the Fest Hub that we can offer these young people a promising future.”
17-year-old Jabari Christmas, who took part in the site tour, said: “If football doesn’t work out for me, then I’ll need to consider my options in two or five years’ time. I’ve never had this kind of experience before, but I can see how HS2 and construction work of this kind could be an option in the future.”
17-year-old Derek Luzinda said: “It’s been a really great experience. A lot of the time you play football you have a tunnel vision mindset. Coming here today has broadened my mindset. It’s helped me to think about life beyond football, and other careers I wouldn’t have ordinarily thought about, so it’s been a positive mental experience.”