The husband and wife team behind UKFast has announced they have donated £5m into a newly created charitable trust to give a helping hand to disadvantaged young people.
Lawrence Jones MBE, who set up cloud hosting firm with wife Gail in 1999, is placing the funds directly into the UKFast Community and Education Trust, which seeks to improve the education, training and development opportunities available to young people, particularly within Greater Manchester.
The trust is committed to providing sustainable and lasting support for young people experiencing poverty, abuse, discrimination, exclusion and neglect, building on UKFast’s existing work in the community and in schools. The trust also supports individuals and organisations looking after young people with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions.
For more than a decade, UKFast has run a variety of initiatives as part of its mission to improve digital skills. These initiatives have developed into partnerships with more than 60 schools and colleges and today UKFast reaches 60,000 young people across Greater Manchester and its education team runs more than 500 events each year.
Alongside this work in digital skills, UKFast’s team support a multitude of projects, including funding a much-needed breakfast club at Holy Name RC Primary School and providing 22,310 meals for children across Greater Manchester during the school holidays as part of a Holiday Hunger initiative in 2018.
UKFast CEO Lawrence Jones MBE said: “We made the choice to move into this area of Manchester and are proud to be based here. When we did, we made a conscious decision to work with the local community. After all, it’s their home and it’s our responsibility to be a good neighbour.
“When we heard that Holy Name School, just a stone’s throw from our campus, had children who couldn’t afford to pay 20p to attend a breakfast club we made a decision to get involved. Kids can’t sit through lessons and concentrate on activities if they don’t have basic nutrition.
“At the last count we’ve invested nearly £10m in various education programmes in the last decade across Greater Manchester. It’s our intention to raise more funds, raise more awareness and inspire others to contribute. Our goal is to make this fund sustainable to maximise the impact it has over many years.
“We have problems in all of our towns and cities, where kids feel less empowered and further away from the bright lights they see on social media. We believe that one way to bridge this gap is by bringing digital education to the forefront and connecting young people to the opportunities in our industry, tackling the digital skills shortage at the same time.
“This is how we’ll develop deeper relationships and partnerships to make a lasting difference, rather than it just offering short-term financial support. The trust helps us professionalise our efforts and kick-starts a new era with the addition of £5m.”
UKFast is also committing 5,000 volunteering hours annually to community projects through the trust, worth a further £67,000 a year, as well as value-in-kind donations of the firm’s facilities including its auditorium, which has hosted 1,500 young people to date in a series of free cinema screenings during school holidays.
UKFast Director of CSR Russell Feingold, said: “UKFast is passionate about making a difference to the lives of young people in communities across Greater Manchester. There is a huge amount of work to do and the formation of the trust allows us to make a much bigger impact and enable charities and projects to increase their reach and impact. We also aim to inspire and engage other business to do all they can to help disadvantaged young people in the region.”
UKFast Director of Training and Education Aaron Saxton, added: “The trust was originally set up to concentrate our efforts on education, but we rapidly saw the need to extend the scope of the support to the community.”