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The Prince of Wales has been praised for being “clued (in) with what the younger generation are doing” as he met teenagers and young adults who found work through his charity.
Chatting against a backdrop of tracksuits and trainers, he seemed particularly interested in how many had found jobs at the end of the six-month programme.
The Kickstart Scheme was set up in September 2020 by Mr Sunak to provide work for young people, after youth unemployment peaked at around 15% in the pandemic.
With crowds pressing against the barricades outside the JD Sports, which had “King of Trainers” and a crown logo stamped on its front, Charles paused to shake hands before heading inside.
One 24-year-old he spoke to, Pav Soor, said he had been rejected from 460 jobs before joining Marks & Spencer as a Kickstarter.
“It just made me feel like I have no worth,” he said of his 18 months out of work.
Mr Soor, who is to join the supermarket full-time as an apprentice, said he was impressed by his talk with the prince, which felt “more of a discussion with a friend”.
He said: “He was interested in our journeys, in our personal journeys.
“He individually spoke to each of us and asked us how you got here.
“There’s a stigma behind a higher power not really being clued with what the younger generation are doing, but I was really glad to see that stigma just wiped away.”
Making his way around the room, Charles asked Mollie McCaldon, a JD Gyms employee, about her job and whether she enjoyed “lifting things”.
“What was nice was to see how interested he actually was,” she said.
“He’s actually interested in your choices.”
Mr Sunak, who was photographed in March wearing a pair of £335 trainers, confessed to a JD Sports executive that he had a “weakness for trainers”.
The crowd outside swelled as Charles was in the shop, with a member of staff from the Morrisons across the road coming out to cheer.
“Prince Charles, we say hi, thank you for stopping by,” she chanted.
The prince made an unscripted visit to the crowd, which surged forward, prompting security to intervene and try to force people back.
He then made a brief visit to a nearby market before disappearing into a black Audi as it began to rain.
Jonathan Townsend, the UK chief executive of The Prince’s Trust, said: “We know that securing employment can help young people build stable and fulfilling lives.
“We have provided vital support to thousands of young people on the Kickstart Scheme who were at risk of long-term unemployment.”