A giant directory of educational, career and voluntary work opportunities for young people has been launched on the Internet by television news presenter Martyn Lewis, with the support of the Prince of Wales, writes Tony Durham.
The YouthNet service can be consulted from any school, college, library or home computer with access to the World-Wide Web. "It is going to become the definitive source of information for any young person looking for an opportunity," Mr Lewis said.
There will be information on careers, training, further and higher education, gap year challenges, opportunities abroad, working holidays, volunteering and expeditions. The database also includes organisations which help young people with their problems. Mr Lewis saw his own opportunity after his book Go for It!, which gives details of about 500 organisations, reached sales of 30,000 copies a year. He chose the Internet rather than a telephone helpline because he believes young people are comfortable with computers and would rather find information for themselves than take advice from an adult. Only days after reports that a boy blew his hand off with a firework recipe obtained from the Internet, Mr Lewis was at pains to tell some good news. "The Internet is the most powerful source of learning that has yet been devised," he said. "The potential for learning that the Internet has already, has been swamped by the occasional piece of bad news."
Organisations will be carefully vetted before they are promoted on YouthNet. The venture has raised close to Pounds 150,000 in cash and in kind, with the Home Office providing Pounds 25,000 and 18 companies giving up to Pounds 25,000 each. Further income will be generated by selling advertising space.
The cable and satellite music channel MTV, which has a large youth audience, will carry free advertisements for YouthNet.
The YouthNet service is at http://www.youthnet.org.uk/ youthnet