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Business Secretary opens construction training academy in Tower Hamlets

PUBLISHED: 11:15 28 March 2014 | UPDATED: 12:38 10 April 2014

Vince Cable MP talks to apprentices at the launch of Tower Hamlets Building Lives Training Academy in Bow.

Vince Cable MP talks to apprentices at the launch of Tower Hamlets Building Lives Training Academy in Bow.

Archant

Secretary of State for Business and Innovation, Vince Cable, has officially opened a training academy in Tower Hamlets providing apprenticeships in the construction industry for the jobless.

Vince Cable MP and Steve Rawlings with a group of apprentices at the launch of Tower Hamlets Building Lives Training Academy in Bow.Vince Cable MP and Steve Rawlings with a group of apprentices at the launch of Tower Hamlets Building Lives Training Academy in Bow.

Mr Cable expressed support for Building Lives, the social enterprise behind the academy, last Thursday at the new campus in Bromley High Street.

He said: “I was staggered by the figures I saw from your work: 30 per cent of young people were homeless, 40 per cent were in trouble with police and those people have now been given secure, well paid jobs.

“We’ve got to raise the quality of apprenticeship training so people see that it is of equal and, in some cases, more value than a conventional university route.”

Building Lives was founded in 2010 by Wapping resident Steve Rawlings.

Originally a roofer, Steve went on to form his own construction company.

After securing a large contract, he wanted to incorporate the community and formed his first training centre in a homeless shelter.

Steve said: “We won lots of awards. I met Prince Charles; everyone came down to have a look. Two London mayors, Nick Clegg, Iain Duncan Smith, I’ve got my pictures with all of them and I‘ve met the Queen.”

Stratford-based apprentice 16-year-old Helen Collyer is one of the 10 per cent of women that train with Building Lives, proof that another male bastion has fallen.

She said: “I wanted to do something a bit more practical.

“I started looking for apprenticeships in carpentry and multi skills. This is more up my street.”

There are now five academies which have enrolled 1000 Londoners aged 16 to 65, 80 per cent of whom have gone on to sustainable employment.

Steve aims to eventually open an academy in every borough.

He explained: “The academies are families. For every 25 students I have an apprentice manager, who is like a surrogate mum or dad.

“We look after them all the way.”

For more information visit buildinglives.co.uk.

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