Southampton FC have helped give Big Issue vendors a leg-up with a new employability programme.
The eight-week course, which is run by the club’s official charity Saints Foundation, aims to equip vendors with job-ready skills, building on their personal development and learning about job roles across the club.
It is hoped that completing the course will allow the vendors to pick up skills that will enable them to apply for long-term appointments at the Premier League club.
Since the programme began on October 4, the latest session last week saw vendors covering information on the Matchday Lotto scheme and the relevant skills needed to fill the role.
Other sessions will cover how to effectively deal with customer queries, problems and complaints, give an insight into the role of a steward and allow vendors to brush up on interview skills.
Saints’ defensive starlet Jack Stephens has lent his support to the programme.
The left-back visited the most recent session to reward vendors with match tickets to Saturday’s Premier League clash with West Brom, which the St Mary’s outfit won 1-0 thanks to a wonder-strike from Sofiane Boufal.
One of the vendors who is participating in the programme insisted that the chance to develop his skills was crucial to help him bring structure to his life.
Speaking after attending the match against Swansea in August, Gary Jackson said: “There can be a lot of misunderstanding about The Big Issue and about homeless people but I think that this partnership has shown what we are about and that we are good people.
“This has continued with me doing a hospitality course. Hopefully it will lead to me having a chance to work at the club. It has given me a chance to build and work out a structured life for myself. This partnership is something that should be done more often, definitely.”
The move is the latest leg of the partnership between The Big Issue and Southampton FC after Stephens graced the cover of the special edition issue that acted as the Saints programme for their Premier League opener against Swansea City in August.
Saints stars Manolo Gabbiadini, Oriol Romeu, Nathan Redmond and Florin Gardos joined vendors on the streets of Winchester ahead of the match, which finished goalless.
The BBC Match of the Day cameras also filmed a special report to mark the first-of-its-kind team-up.