Published 12 November 2014

The young there were just as moved as the old.

The Duke of Cambridge

As Patron of SkillForce, I am delighted to be here this evening to mark the charity's tenth anniversary.  In the relatively short space of ten years, the charity has achieved so much and had a real impact on so many young lives.

The concept behind SkillForce is simple yet effective.  On the one hand, young people who are struggling with formal education need confidence building, motivation and loving discipline.  On the other hand, good men and women leave the Armed Forces every day who have spent a career instilling exactly those characteristics in others, but in uniform.  Put the two together, combine it with civilians who share the vision, and you have SkillForce.

SkillForce combines two things that are close to my heart.  It combines a concern for young people who are on the edge of society who otherwise may not fulfil their potential with the values and ethos of the Armed Forces.  Those values teamwork, resilience, courage, dedication and service to others are at the very heart of everything this charity does.

It is fitting that we should be here, at the Imperial War Museum, in Remembrance-tide, to celebrate the charity’s work.  SkillForce believe as I do that Remembrance must never become the preserve or responsibility of one generation.

I was privileged to be able to visit the poppy installation at the Tower of London in its early days.  Even then, before it was as famous as it is now, the people observing the poppies came from every generation.  The young there were just as moved as the old.  Their grief and thanksgiving for the sacrifice of previous generations was just as real.

I noticed the same phenomenon in Australia earlier this year when Catherine and I attended their annual ANZAC Day parade.  The young were there in force, in fact outnumbering the generations above them.

So it was with great pride that, earlier this evening, I met children pursuing the SkillForce Junior Prince's Award.  This programme helps children prepare for the challenges of secondary school through character-building, fun projects and activities. Part of the Award centres on Remembrance.

The children's enthusiasm for learning about this subject in a way that is relevant to them shone through.  It was clear that they, like those children who gather at the Tower of London or at Remembrance Day parades, are grasping something that will instil hopefulness and commitment about a better future in themselves and in their generation.  This is no small achievement.  Only by pointing to all that Remembrance means can we have any chance of making our society a better place and giving these young people hope, which is the fuel for all the work they will need to do to fulfil their potential.

At this juncture, as I conclude, I would like to pay tribute to Peter Cross, the founder of this tremendous charity, on being appointed as President of SkillForce from next year.  Peter, you should be rightly incredibly proud of everything you have achieved in the charity's first ten years none of this would have been possible without your dynamism, dogged determination and tangible enthusiasm and energy.

I would also like to thank you all for attending tonight, and for supporting SkillForce.  I urge you to continue your kind support to help this innovative charity into its second decade.  Thank you, Lord Ashcroft, for your generous support for this evening.

It just remains for me to wish SkillForce a very happy 10th birthday, and to wish you all a very enjoyable evening.