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interview


TUROK FRED


The founder of LA Fitness tells Magali Robathan how his TAG charity is helping jobless young people find work in the fitness industry and improving health in deprived communities


the gym. “Look at you!” Turok says, slapping him on the back and squeezing his biceps. “Muscleman! You look fantastic. Good on you.” “That was one of the kids from the


A


Transforming a Generation pilot,” he says to me later. “He was a disillusioned, angry, unemployed young man. Now he’s in full-time employment with LA Fitness, he works hard, he’s doing well, he looks the business. That’s what it’s all about.” Transforming a Generation (TAG) is


the charity set up by Turok, founder of LA Fitness and chair of the Fitness Industry Association, in January 2010. Its aims are to provide training and employment in the health and fi tness industry for 18- to 24-year-olds not in employment, education or training (NEETs). “There are around one million NEETs


in this country, costing taxpayers in the region of £16bn,” says Turok. “The spin-off from being a NEET is increased drugs, violence, gangs and crime. This is a massive problem.” TAG starts from a philosophy that these


young people have huge potential, but are being held back by their background, lack of education and a sense of alienation. With the right support, Turok and his team believe, these young people can fulfi l their potential and become hard- working members of society. The TAG programme consists of six


weeks of training, delivered by Lifetime, providing participants with the technical skills needed to achieve a REPs Level 2 qualifi cation in fi tness instructing. Each student has a dedicated mentor and is also taught the soft skills necessary to


42


s Fred Turok arrives at LA Fitness Piccadilly in London, he spots a young man arriving for work at


get a job. They then undergo a fi ve- month work placement at a local health club, and are supported for a further six months on their journey to employment or further education. Employers currently supporting the scheme include LA Fitness, David Lloyd Leisure, DC Leisure, GLL and Fitness First. By the end of September, 900 young


people will have been placed in full- time employment as a result of TAG, and Turok is confi dent that a total of 2,000 will have found full-time work by April 2011. The longer-term target is to deliver 10,000 NEETs into full-time employment within three years. “TAG works to solve three problems,”


explains Turok. “Firstly it gives NEETs the possibility of a career in an industry that many of them are interested in working in, because they tend to be quite physical and active people. “The second issue is the health of


the nation. We know that health in deprived communities tends to be very poor. These young people can act as ambassadors and can help people in their communities to understand the benefi ts of exercise and healthy living. “The third issue is the massive


unemployment problem in the UK.”


BIRTH OF AN IDEA Turok was born in Cape Town and grew up in South Africa, where his parents were imprisoned in 1964 for being ANC members – his father was in prison with Nelson Mandela. In 1967, the family was forced to leave and move to the UK. Turok’s upbringing instilled in him


a desire to help others, and he’s involved in a number of other charities, including the African Institute of Mathematical Science, which he helped


Read Health Club Management online at healthclubmanagement.co.uk/digital


Turok speaks to a group of TAG apprentices, all of whom must show a desire to change their lives


october 2010 © cybertrek 2010


to launch in 2003 in order to promote maths and science across Africa. “I come from an anti-apartheid, South


African, equal equality background and my family has always been involved in helping deprived communities,” says Turok. “I also come from a country where unemployment, youth crime and violence is a substantial problem.” Turok is dyslexic and struggled at


school. “I was expelled aged 15,” he says. “I have a dreadful record. My experience with education helps me


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