A derelict house in Bolton is set to be transformed by unemployed youngsters as they rebuild their lives and learn skills that could give them a job for life.
The unique project run by Bolton Lads and Girls Club will see seven young people not in education or employment carry out the improvements themselves over the course of the next four months, at the same time as undertaking work experience and construction qualifications.
The four bedroom house, which was purchased for £80,000, will be overhauled by the group with the help of builder and developer Seddon, whose tradespeople and mentors will teach the group aged 17 to 21 the skills they need to carry out all of the work themselves.
As part of the Renov8 project, the group will work in two teams across four days a week to carry out the refurbishment, while heading back to the classroom every Friday to gain qualifications in construction, maths and English.
More than 100 young people have been involved in the project so far, with teens taking part in the Government’s National Citizen Service running the project’s Twitter account, promoting the scheme, designing the logo, overseeing the project’s finance and designing and coming up with the Renov8 brand.
Bolton Lads and Girls Club, which was established in 1889, was given the keys to the house by the charity’s Vice Chairman, Nick Hopkinson MBE, who purchased it through The Hopkinson Foundation - a trust set up in memory of his late father, Peter Hopkinson, to provide educational opportunities for youngsters.
Once complete, the charity hopes to sell the house on Bolton Road in the Kearsley area of Bolton and will reinvest the profit into the club, to help more young people get on the career ladder.
Philip Burke, Enterprise Delivery Manager at Bolton Lads and Girls Club, who thought up the scheme in reaction to high youth unemployment in Bolton, said: "This project is about giving young people in long term unemployment with multiple barriers an opportunity to work alongside construction experts Seddon whilst learning valuable trades and gaining qualifications.
"For us, opportunities should be given to those with enthusiasm and drive to achieve and we can do this by offering this helping hand to their future whilst raising valuable funds for the club.”
Lee Gaskell is one of the young people taking part in the project. At 21 he has sent out more than 1,000 job applications since leaving college three years ago. Bolton-born Lee, who lives with his parents and two brothers, completed a diploma in construction in 2011 but has been unable to secure a role in the industry as he lacks the qualifications he needs to work on a live construction site.
Lee was referred to Bolton Lads and Girls Club by the local Job Centre and jumped at the chance to take part in Renov8.
He said: "I have sent out thousands of applications in the last three years and it’s really demoralising - you’re always told there’s so many people going up for the job and that you aren’t the strongest candidate.
"I have always wanted to work in the industry, my older brother is a painter and decorator and I used to help him at work when I was younger. But when I left college there were no jobs in the industry.
"This project will help me turn my life around and get into construction. I would love to get an apprenticeship after the project and eventually set up my own business – that’s the dream anyway.
"Thanks to this project I will have everything I need to work on a construction site and make something of myself.”
Lee and six other young people will refurbish the house under the watchful eye of skilled tradespeople from Seddon. The company, which has its head offices in Bolton, will train the budding construction workers for free and will ensure the building site obtains health and safety certificates and building regulations.
Tony Costello, Training and Development Manager at Seddon, said: "The young people taking part in this programme haven’t been given the chance to show what they can do and what they can achieve.
"At Seddon we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to shine, that’s why we have taken on apprentices for the last 80 years.
"Every single one of the teens renovating the house will be given an interview for our apprenticeship programme and the opportunity to gain all the qualifications they need to work on a building site.
"It’s great to be able to use construction as tool for young people to rebuild their lives and get on the career ladder, at the same time as renovating a small part of Bolton.”
The group will attend Bolton College during the construction work to study for their City and Guilds Basic Construction Skills (6218) qualification, maths and English qualifications and carry out work experience on Seddon’s live construction sites.
The house will be refurbished using materials donated by local companies and is expected to be ready for sale at the beginning of 2015.
If you or your business would like more information about how to get involved and support the Renov8 project please contact Phillip Burke, BLGC Enterprise Manager, on 07854 070 887.