With the anniversary of the London riots approaching, Wickes has combined with local tradespeople to up-skill 1,900 young apprentices.
The Volunteer it Yourself scheme was launched this week, in partnership with City & Guilds, London Youth, Cospa and the Big Lottery Fund.
The scheme involves local tradespeople spending two evenings a week for six to eight weeks working with members of local youth clubs, as well as other 14-17 year-olds in the area, to renovate 47 youth centres around the country.
Wickes provides the materials and equipment, while funding is secured through the Big Lottery Fund. City & Guilds accredits young apprentices that complete the programme with Entry Level Three qualifications in building skills and construction.
Local tradesman Paul Minderides said he wanted to give young people the same opportunities he had had: “the trades gave me a career when I left school – I wanted to give something back and pass it on”.
“We don’t always get a great press – that’s sometimes spread to youngsters and they think builders aren’t a great profession to go into. We want to show them that there is actually a profession and a good living to be made.”
Wickes brand director Tony Holdway said the scheme aimed to capitalise on “the expertise and generosity of our country’s local tradesmen who are at the core of their communities”, to pass on the wealth of knowledge and experience held by workers.
He told CN: “One of our main goals is to raise awareness that there is a huge skills shortage. It’s critical going forward that we have the next generation ready to take up the tools.”
The programme was launched this week in Pedro Youth Club, in a deprived region of East London. The club was opened in 1929 and revived in the 1960’s by Dame Elizabeth Taylor. It is now run by James Cook MBE, a former British and European Super Middleweight champion boxer.
Mr. Cook told CN: “We all learn at different times and at different rates – we need to give young people their own time and space, give them something to do with their hands, teach them discipline, respect, manners, show them how to get up and early and work hard.”
The announcement comes in the same week as CITB-ConstructionSkills chairman James Wates warned of a “ticking time bomb” in skills in the construction industry.
“Investing in skills and training is a pre-requisite as we move out of recession and back to growth. Construction has lost 200,000 people since the start of the recession and apprenticeship numbers have halved – leaving fewer opportunities for young people coming into our industry.”
“We have to invest now to help industry and the UK economy to grow and prosper in the long term. If we fail to invest now, we risk widening the skills gap in the future.”
Sophie Manzi, 17, worked on the scheme’s trial project in Streatham: “I’ve been coming to this youth club for ten years, and the facilities had become very run down and tacky. The chance to freshen it up was welcomed by everyone.”
“VIY exposed me to an industry I had never considered before and the accreditation I gained in building and work skills has given me a real advantage moving forwards.”