Premiership Rugby’s HITZ programme is designed to get young people into training and employment and one graduate of the Gloucester Rugby scheme has proved an unmitigated success.
After completing a 12-week traineeship with the Gloucester Rugby Community Foundation, local youngster James Marshall has joined the club’s operations team on a part-time basis, the 20-year-old assisting the team charged with keeping Kingsholm ticking.
HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s award-winning education and employability programme, which works with 2,000 disadvantaged young people across England every year.
James, who has autism, transformed his social skills during his time with the HITZ programme at Gloucester Rugby and his development left coordinator Matt Russell taken aback.
“We place a massive emphasis on work experience and James did really well trying out lots of different jobs,” he said.
“He was doing lots of ground work at lots of different places, and was helping out at schools in the local area, so we said: ‘How about you come and help our operations team out?’.
“It was helping them get ready for matchdays and all the bits and pieces that go with running a stadium.
“Some of the guys in the operations team thought that he was a really hard-working lad, so they offered him an interview, which was lucky because the week before, we’d just done interview skills on the HITZ programme with Barclays LifeSkills.
“He handed in a CV, got the interview, and then it went from there.
“I like to try and take some credit but I can’t really – he’s the one that put the work in.
“With autism, communication isn’t a highlight. A few times early in the programme, if he was struggling with something, he wouldn’t ask for help.
“By the end of the 12 weeks, he wasn’t just asking me for help – he was asking some of the other students for help, which was a massive moment for me and nearly made me cry.”
James himself added: “I loved my placement as I really enjoying helping others and working at Kingsholm.
“I also enjoyed learning the interview skills with HITZ and Barclays LifeSkills because I think it helped me get a job.
“I think my confidence working with other people has got a lot better now and I like meeting and working with new people.”
The HITZ programme, delivered nationally by Premiership Rugby and funded by national partners Comic Relief, Land Rover and Wooden Spoon, uses rugby’s strong core values to improve life and employability skills for disadvantaged young people, underpinning success in education, life and work. See @HITZrugby for more