National Citizen Service is 'popular' with teenagers

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Media captionThe government hopes even more young people will sign up for service next year

Compulsory national service came to an end in this country in 1960 but it may surprise you to learn that more than 30,000 young people have signed up this summer for the government's new voluntary National Citizen Service.

Launched last year, it is aimed at 16 and 17 year olds.

Over four weeks they work and socialise together - taking part in residential weeks away and helping out with local community projects.

Thirty thousand people will take part this summer - 1,100 of them from the East of England.

Confidence building

According to the minister overseeing the scheme, it's all been a great success.

"Our research tells us that it's incredibly popular with young people," said Nick Hurd.

"Ninety five per cent of them would recommend it to their friends and we also know that it's helping them develop the skills and confidence that are going to be valued by employers in the future, while at the same time doing positive things in their communities."

Mr Hurd was speaking in Norwich where he watched a group of young people help build a garden outside the local YMCA.

Many were, by their own admission, from disadvantaged areas of Great Yarmouth and Norwich.

All told the minister that National Citizenship was a good idea.

"It's motivated me to get out of bed in the morning," said Arrianne White, who's just left school and hopes to study child care at college.

"If I wasn't doing this, I wouldn't have much else to do."

"Normally teenagers are seen as really bad people - we're not all like that."

"I hope doing this will enhance my CV and give me a better chance of getting a job in the future. There are a lot of people leaving school and looking for work.

"If I've done voluntary work, I'll have a better chance."

Fixing 'Broken Britain'

National Citizenship was one of the big Conservative ideas to help tackle 'Broken Britain'.

"David Cameron said back in 2005 that as a society we're not very good at helping young people make the complicated transition to adulthood," says Mr Hurd.

Image copyright PA
Image caption David Cameron pledges to help young people through his 'Big Society' project

"Why can't the government and the voluntary sector work together to create a modern version of National Service?"

"We've brought together young people from very different backgrounds and put them through a common experience that stretches and challenges them."

Mr Hurd says the scheme is also helping young people to develop the so-called 'soft skills' which employers are always keen to see: the ability to get on with people, to work in teams, to communicate and be positive about work.

He hopes that in two years time 90,000 young people will volunteer for National Citizenship.

How about making it compulsory?

"It's not the thinking at the moment.

"We want to make it available to every 16 year old in the country and make it so blindingly good that every 16 year old will want to take part in it."