Despite a significant decline in junior football players, a local club has come up with an initiative to encourage the young to join sporting clubs as a pathway to a career.
The Willetton Football Club developed the Youth Employment pathways Program (YEP) to maximise juniors’ likelihood of completing their pathway into a career.
President Perry Kleppe said that in the 2019, the colts’ numbers were down considerably with barely enough players to field an effective squad.
“It was pretty clear that we needed to find a new strategy to get players into Willetton at this post junior point,” he said.
“We looked around to see where there was a concentration of younger people who, for whatever reason, were not involved in junior footy in the community and we identified the Clontarf Academy as an obvious choice.
“It was clear though that in the past clubs had knocked on their door to get their talent to play with them but that was it, a one-sided relationship with nothing to offer in return.
“This is where we came up with the idea of Youth Employment Pathways.”
“What YEP does is connect these kids’ affinity with football to an opportunity to secure a worthwhile career through traineeships, apprenticeships or cadetships with various local employers while their involvement with the club provides then with the structure, discipline and mentorship to maximise their likelihood of completing their pathway into a career.
“There are a number of levels of participation in YEP, it requires not only young footy players but also an ever-expanding panel of employers who are able to offer a position with a qualification, not just a job.
“The program is about providing the youth a career pathway, so certificate 4 standard qualifications in non-trade areas or apprenticeships are what is required.
“There are many state and federal government incentives available to employers who get involved with a program like this and it will open doors to opportunities the employer would not otherwise had had.”
Mr Kleppe said Clontarf graduates in 2021 who want to play community football would be placed in junior groups and become eligible for the YEP program.
“We require them to complete year 12 to any level, just stay in school, as well as display the character requirements we identify so we can recommend them to our panel of employers,” he said.
“Generally, this will revolve around being reliable, honest, and a team player.
“When they have finished their year 12, hopefully we have sufficient positions available with our panel employers and these junior kids can move into our colts’ system as well as a career pathway.”
While the club struggled in 2019, in 2020, thanks to the Clontarf System, the colts’ squad has grown to 38 boys this season and the team finished on top of the ladders in the home and away rounds.
“Next year half of these players will move into our senior teams due to age and the rest will remain eligible to play colts,” Mr Kleppe said.
“We are also expecting a new group of talented, younger boys straight out of year 12 at Clontarf to join our list and are now looking seriously at nominating two teams in our Colts system, something that the Willetton Football has never done before.”
The club has opened communication with local high schools and it will be offered to students in year 10, 11 and 12.
The program is also being made available for young women, after a successful inaugural season in 2020.
For young people wanting to get involved or, find out more visit willettonfootballclub.com.