Disused office block provides construction skills training base for young Southwark locals

The Trust recently ran a programme for young people in Southwark interested in trying their hand at construction.

The locals, aged between 16 and 25, learnt new skills in painting and decorating, wallpapering, and carpentry in disused offices in Thurlow Street.

The project was generously funded by The Worshipful Company of Drapers and Southwark Council, who also provided the venue.  Through using a disused office, the young people gained experience of what a real working environment is like. Using the space as a blank canvas for training meant that they had the chance to perfect their skills without worrying about making mistakes.  It was a great opportunity for them to practice what they learned in a real, relaxed environment for free, without the added pressure of paying course fees.  


The young people worked three days a week with two trainers from Construction Youth Trust over four weeks learning new construction skills in order to prepare them to progress onto further training, or employment in the construction industry.  They also took part in health and safety training in preparation for their CSCS test.


Those who successfully completed the programme earned an Open College Network accreditation for their work as well as the opportunity to take their CSCS health and safety test enabling them access to entry level employment on site.  Trainees were also kitted out with the correct PPE such as boots, hard hats, goggles, and high-visability jackets which were theirs to keep and should help make the next step into employment as smooth as possible.


The young people were supported throughout the course and will continue to be now, with the aim to introduce as many employers and young people as possible, creating new opportunities for the group.  Not only did the young people benefit from this but companies have been and will be exposed to a new talented workforce they otherwise would not have had access to.  


Aaron a trainee on the course who with Construction Youth Trust’s support has just secured a Dry Lining apprenticeship with Carillion.  He had previously taken part in a Mobile Classroom course with the Trust and signed up to join the course in Southwark.  He is made a toolbox to take home at the end of the project and  built a basic platform.  Trainer Rob Wright commented:


“Aaron has been a fantastic student – he throws himself into everything he does and infects the other students with his enthusiasm.”


Eight work placements were organised for the trainees at Mears and Southwark Building Services, the direct labour organization for Southwark Council which will be taking place in May.  Young people have the opportunity to take part in a month long work experience placement in which they will work alongside a carpenter, plumber, electrician and in the stores department a week at a time, to gain valuable experience and an insight into working within the sector.  For those who wish to move up to apprenticeship level, the Trust is supporting them through taking their ‘Skills Learning Exercise’, something which states they are apprenticeship ready, and is recognized by all industry employers which will be taking place next week.  The Trainees are also taking their CSCs health and safety tests in the same week. 


This programme is just one example of how Construction Youth Trust engages with young people in London and throughout the UK.  Through the Trust young people interested in construction as a career are given the opportunity to ‘have a go’ at something new for free, gain a qualification, improve their CV, and meet potential employers to take the next step towards finding a new career path.  The Trust aims to prepare individuals up to a standard which will enable them to move seamlessly forward into an apprenticeship to begin a new career. 


Cllr Dixon Fyle, cabinet member for children's services at Southwark Council, said: "Projects like this can give young people valuable skills and the confidence to go out and get permanent employment and I am very pleased the council was able to offer Construction Youth Trust our support."