Youth unemployment is a "modern tragedy", Boris Johnson said as his re-election campaign came to Mitcham yesterday.
London's mayor, who is standing for another four years alongside May's London Assembly elections, visited the Merton Sea Cadets in Commonside West to announce his support for the £1.3m programme on Thursday, January 20.
The Safer London Foundation's YOU matter programme will encourage thousands of young people to join uniformed groups like the Guides, Scouts and Cadets, to help them develop personal responsibility and instil discipline.
Mr Johnson said: "Uniformed groups are a fantastic way for youngsters to get involved in a myriad of activities, which will help equip them with the skills they need to succeed in life.
"It’s a modern tragedy that so many of our young people are struggling to get a foothold in the jobs market and are drifting into crime.
"By instilling self reliance, discipline and a sense of competition, young people can aspire to a better future."
He said 38 new uniformed groups would be opened over three years, with two-thirds of those in boroughs with areas of high deprivation.
After a drill session where the mayor gave the commands, each unit demonstrated a skill or activity relevant to their unit.
Merton's Volunteer Police Cadets used a special lap top and scanner provided by the National Mobile Phone Crime Unit to scan and record IMEI numbers from phones of those present, including that of the Mayor.
Police Cadet Karolina Falkiewicz, 19, who is applying to become a Met Police special constable, said: "I found it incredibly difficult fitting in, when I first came to London six years ago and got in with the wrong crowd.
"Joining the Police Cadets helped me to feel a part of a community and more confident."
The foundation will work in partnership with the You London uniformed groups- Volunteer Police Cadets, St John’s Ambulance, Army Cadets, Air Cadets, Sea Cadets, Guides, Scouts, Boys’ Brigade and Girls’ Brigade.
A recent YouGov survey showed that, for the first time, Mr Johnson's main challenger has caught up to him in the polls, suggesting this year's election a very tight race.
Former London mayor and Labour veteran Ken Livingstone has taken a 2 per cent lead (51 to 49 per cent), compared to an 8 per cent for Mr Johnson last June.
The pollsters attributed Mr Livingstone's pledge to cut tube and bus fares as having a real impact, with transport being rated as the top priority among voters.