How football is inspiring the leaders of tomorrow

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Behind the inevitable headlines of football’s transfer deadline day are more positive stories of clubs offering career opportunities to bright young adults. Haroon Ali is one of them. Here he talks about a unique scheme run by Tottenham Hotspur FC that sees him study AAT and mentor local pupils at the same time

When you’re given the chance to do an apprenticeship with one of the biggest sporting names in the country, you take it. So my decision to be part of the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation and the Leadership through Sport (LTS) programme after I finished school was an easy one.

The LTS programme aims to assist young adults to become leaders and ambassadors in their communities by creating life-changing opportunities. It has definitely made a difference to my life.

Why I chose an apprenticeship at Tottenham Hotspur FC

I’ve always loved sport and when I was younger I decided I wanted to work in business. Ideally, I wanted to find a way to combine my two areas of interest. When I finished my A Levels at Richmond College in 2012, I came across LTS by searching for accountancy courses on the National Apprenticeship Service website. I was instantly intrigued by the programme and saw it as a unique opportunity.

Over nine months, 14 other apprentices and I are studying and gaining qualifications in both accountancy and mentoring. We also get to put what we learn into practice working in companies around London and running our own local mentoring projects – some of which are in sport.

At first I thought it was an odd match and couldn’t really see how working in finance was related to teaching someone how to coach football, but then as I started the programme I began to see how it worked. Leaders can be born on the sporting field; they work with their team members to overcome a common goal. Good leaders inspire and bring out the best in others and these are skills which can be applied in any area of life.

So how does it work?

Mentoring as part of the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation

On Mondays I work with the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation at White Hart Lane (a football lover’s dream day) and am placed into local primary schools where I am a mentor to the pupils. I’ve also achieved my Football Association Level 1 badge which means I can help with after school clubs and PE sessions.

Every fortnight or so, the apprentices meet guest speakers from the business world who give us advice based on their experiences. One week we met Labour MP for Tottenham David Lammy and former Tottenham Hotspur player Ledley King – it was an inspirational experience.

The guest speakers come from all different sectors and walks of life and I’ve loved meeting them. They reminded me to keep my eye on the future and that everything I do now will affect where I go and what I do – whether it’s adding another skill to my CV or gaining an experience that I can refer to in job interviews.

My AAT apprenticeship

I attend the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London every Tuesday where I study the AAT Accounting Qualification – a fast-track route into accountancy. I’ve already passed Level 2 and am now on Level 3.

From my experiences so far, I’ve seen how the AAT qualification is a huge asset to anyone wanting to work in the business world, not just in accountancy. Through studying subjects such as cash management and basic accounting, I’ve been able to directly apply new skills in the workplace.

I work at ICAP, the world’s leading inter-dealer brokers in the financial systems department. As part of the LTS programme, all of the apprentices get the opportunity to work in a company three days a week (Wednesday-Friday). My department looks to improve computer systems used by the company, the majority of which are accounting based.

So far I’ve been able to apply what I am learning at college to my tasks at work which makes everything a lot more relevant. This experience alone is second to none. How many school leavers can say they’ve gone straight into a job at a top firm like this?

Coaching or accountancy – the world is my oyster

The LTS programme has and will continue to open up many avenues for me. I could potentially pursue my coaching career with the aid of the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation, or I could continue with accounting. I also like the idea of owning my own business one day so my AAT qualification will definitely help with this.

I’ve been put in a truly unique situation. Not many young people are introduced to the world of work through a cause such as the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation / LTS programme. It has not only funded my studies, but has introduced me to influential and inspirational people who I now look up to and aspire to be like.

Perhaps I’ll be able to give back to the community, as they have, in 10 or 20 years’ time and inspire the leaders of the future.

Haroon Ali is an 18-year-old apprentice with the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation / Leadership through Sport programme.

For more information about the Leadership through Sport programme and how to become involved, visit its website.

Haroon Ali is a qualified AAT apprentice.

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