Drifter aged 16 wins ‘Young Builder’ award turning his life round at Barnardo’s Stepney ‘Hub’

PUBLISHED: 17:17 20 October 2017 | UPDATED: 17:17 20 October 2017

Zafar Tandel, runner-up in 'Young Builder of the Year' awards, on House of Commons terrace. Picture: Barnardo’s.

Zafar Tandel, runner-up in 'Young Builder of the Year' awards, on House of Commons terrace. Picture: Barnardo’s.


A teenager drifting towards street crime after being expelled from his east London college has won second place in the ‘Young Builder of the Year’ awards at a Houses of Parliament ceremony.

Zafar on House of Commons terrace with Cathie Short from New Regent’s College and Barnardo’s project worker John Gallagher. Picture: Barnardo’s.Zafar on House of Commons terrace with Cathie Short from New Regent’s College and Barnardo’s project worker John Gallagher. Picture: Barnardo’s.

Zafar Tandel was in danger of drifting towards crime and anti-social behaviour when he was referred to The Hub education skills centre run by Barnardo’s children’s charity in Stepney Green.

The Barnardo’s team encouraged him to learn practical skills like carpentry and painting and decorating.

The 16-year-old from Hackney soon got involved in the programme, which led to his passion for construction.

“I saw that what I was doing wasn’t ‘life’ when I got to The Hub,” Zafar said.

“I had nothing to do after I’d been kicked out of school and was doing a lot of stupid things. I didn’t really care about anything and was just messing around, but realised I couldn’t go on like that.

“The thing about The Hub is that everything feels relaxed, like a family home. The tutors motivate you and never give up on you, no matter what.”

His tutor at The Hub nominated him for the awards for young people entering the construction industry who overcome life’s barriers.

Barnardo’s project worker John Gallagher said: “Zafar’s attitude changed once we gained his trust and he realised we offered an alternative to school. He started attending more and taking pride in his work, going from strength to strength. The change was unbelievable.”

Zafar was among a handful of finalists invited to Parliament for Wednesday’s awards ceremony, when he was named the sole runner-up in the 14-18 category for his “exceptional progress”.

He received a £125 cheque and a £250 tool voucher and is currently working at a north London newsagent’s while applying for apprenticeships in the construction industry.

Cathie Short, school liaison placement officer at New Regent’s College in Hackney who referred Zafar to The Hub, said: “He always had potential that was sadly missed in mainstream education. This award proves that alternative provision can be successful for young people.”

Another youngster attending The Hub, Anthony Brown, was also highly commended in the 14-18 category at the awards ceremony.

The Youthbuild UK Young Builder of the Year awards mark the achievements of young people who overcome personal barriers to succeed in training for or getting jobs in the construction industry. The annual competition is open to young builders all over the UK.

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