The Young UK and Ireland Programme exists to develop the communication skills of people in the early stages of their working lives or who are performing voluntary work in the community. It does so through an annual series of residential courses and competitions of between two and four days' duration. The programme aims to encourage the research, writing and presentational abilities of delegates, helping to build confidence where it is fragile as well as enhancing the talents of more experienced participants. The minimum age for entry is 18; there is no upper age-limit. The programme is open to anyone in the formative years of his or her career, irrespective of age.
|The centrepiece of each event is the presentation of a 900-word paper, 'Argument', on a topic – of the delegate's or the team's own choice – 'of current interest or controversy'. The paper is researched and written in advance. Before it is presented, helpful tips are given in writing and again in rehearsal at the event itself.|
|The programme also provides a forum for debate and dialogue, often facilitated by guest speakers, and a valuable opportunity for people from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures to exchange ideas and experiences.|
|The programme began in November 2002 as the Young Scotland Programme. Delegates from Northern Ireland joined the following year. Based on this model, England and Wales acquired its own programme in 2004 followed by Ireland in 2005. To the national programmes were gradually added specialist courses: for education professionals, people working in local government, and the third sector. A national team competition, the Young Local Authority of the Year, was launched in 2006.|
The programme's founder, Kenneth Roy, said: 'The idea couldn't be simpler. It is to encourage and engage a neglected group in our society – people who have left full-time education and are now building careers. The young people of Inveramsay, in rural Aberdeenshire in the distant 1920s, converted a shack on the platform of their railway station into a meeting place they called Utopia, and talked long into the night. They inhabited a different world, long before further and higher education became almost as plentiful as tap water. But their idealism and independent spirit go on inspiring our programme. We can all build a shack we call Utopia, if not on the station platform, then in our hearts and minds.'