A Wickes tradesman customer shows a young man the ropes as part of the VIY project.

Wickes scoops 'Big Society' award

Published:  13 December, 2012

NORTHAMPTON: The Volunteer It Yourself (VIY) project, which sees Wickes tradesmen teach young people aged 14-17 accredited building and DIY skills while restoring youth club buildings, has won a Prime Minister's Big Society Award.

The project, which pools non-monetary local and corporate resources for the good of young people and the community, was commended for its Big Society approach.

Congratulating the VIY project on its award win, Prime Minister David Cameron said: "This is a fantastic example of a Big Society approach where young people learn building and trade skills while at the same time providing vital repair work and improvements to their local community centres. It is also a great example of businesses of all sizes working together to come up with a solution that has a lasting effect for everyone."

Wickes donated all the tools and materials for refurbishments and recruited skilled tradesmen through its local sites to act as mentors to young people with little or no experience in DIY or building skills. Working together to carry out repairs on dilapidated youth clubs, young people - some of whom are considered 'NEETs' (not in education, employment or training) - are given an insight into a building trade career and a boost to their self-esteem.

The VIY project aims to help up-skill 1000 young people. There are currently estimated to be 1 million NEETs in the UK.

Danny Thompson, a Wickes tradesman who was a mentor on the project last month, said of his experience: "I've found mentoring on VIY really fun and rewarding. It's great working with the young people, especially those who are really hands-on, keen to take part and get stuck in. I enjoy giving something back to the local community - and helping those who want to be helped."

Tony Holdway, brand director at Wickes, said: "We are delighted that VIY has won a Big Society Award and are proud to be involved. At the heart of its success are the skills and community commitment of our local tradespeople. Their generosity and knowledge drives this project and it is their passion to up-skill young people that will help secure our next generation of builders. We know from our Independent Report, The Voice of Britain's Building Trade, that young people need help accessing a future in the building industry and this provides a first step."

VIY's Big Society award follows initial delivery of the project in London which, so far, has resulted in the refurbishment of five youth club buildings in Hackney, Lambeth, Newark and Streatham.

Since its launch in 2011, 49 young people have earned a qualification as a result of being mentored by tradespeople and, of these, 30 have progressed to further training opportunities and apprenticeships.

Tim Reading, director of The Co-Sponsorship Agency, which developed and helps manage VIY added: "We're delighted to win a Big Society Award! What has been most rewarding is seeing the direct benefits of the campaign. In many ways VIY is encouraging young people to think afresh about practical trade skills as relevant and rewarding employment and career opportunities."

The VIY project is currently being rolled-out across the country with activity commencing at four new clubs in Birmingham next month. Other partners on the national roll-out of VIY include The Big Lottery Fund, London Youth and City & Guilds.

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