New Military Preparation College targets 'character education'

Students at the Military Preparation College do daily physical training drills. Photo: ITV News

We often hear that many young people nowadays lack discipline, respect for authority and a strong work ethic.

Among those aiming to do something about that is the Military Preparation College, focused on "active learning and character education."

They train 16 to 19-year-olds in fitness and key skills, ready for a career in the military, or the civilian workplace.

The first was opened in Cardiff in 1999, and Wales' sixth college has just opened in Newport.

Our Education Reporter Tom Sheldrick went for a look around:

The Military Preparation College say they teach students "teamwork, personal pride, physical and mental robustness, duty, community spirit, confidence and humility."

They do so with a focus on physical fitness, functional skills, and confidence.

The gun run is one of the military exercises practised at the college.

Young people attend for varying lengths of time, from several months up to two years.

The course is funded by the Welsh Government, at no cost to students.

The tug of war is used to teach controlled aggression.

Among around 1,000 teenagers currently enrolled with the colleges around the UK is Ashleigh Lloyd.

He's 17 and from Cwmbran. He's grown up in foster care.

He left school last spring, with no GCSEs, but joined the Military Preparation College in Cardiff in October.

Eight months on and he's now aiming to join the prestigious Parachute Regiment.

Ashleigh says the Military Preparation College has helped him grow up.

The people, the staff here, understand you haven't had the best upbringing in the world, but they're there to push you forward, to bring you up, not tear you down.

Discipline is a big part of that as well.

Obviously I wasn't a really disciplined person, and now I've upped my game - I'm more mature.

– Ashleigh Lloyd

The new college is the first to be based at a working military base - Raglan Barracks in Newport.

The other locations are Cardiff, Bangor, Bridgend, Rhymney in Caerphilly county borough, and Wrexham.

The majority of teenagers who attend the colleges then go back into education or into work.

Around a third join the armed forces.

Huw Lewis, now managing director, founded the first Military Preparation College in Cardiff in 1999.

What we're doing is giving young people the option to have a look at different opportunities available to them.

We're not targeting young people from a disadvantaged background.

This particular site here, if you go left or right, you have affluent areas, as well as disadvantaged areas.

What's great here is that you have really high achievers who have set their sights on being the very best of themselves also with the students that haven't had the best start in life, working together as a team, so they can learn from each other.

From that process, students that probably haven't had the best opportunities get a second chance - and our results speak for themselves.

Over 80 per cent of our students will get a job within a very short time of leaving this course - or go into education of a higher level.

– Huw Lewis, Managing Director, MPCT