Case Study 003

Barnardo’s and Saint-Gobain: Construction Training Programme

Partners Barnardo’s and Saint-Gobain, supported by Barking & Dagenham College and Phoenix Housing, are offering care leavers a ‘dry-lining’ traineeship programme to help fill skills gaps for construction employers.


Barnardo’s is the UK’s largest children’s charity and a vital part of their work involves care leavers. In 2016-17 they helped 3,200 care leavers to live independently and supported 7,200 looked-after children. Saint-Gobain is a global corporation which designs, manufactures and distributes materials and solutions to the construction sector, and beyond. Saint-Gobain UK and Ireland owns some of the leading names in the construction sector such as: British Gypsum, Jewson, Weber and Isover. During 2017-18, Barnardo’s was Saint-Gobain’s chosen charity and its employees, customers and suppliers raised over £213,000.

Barnardo’s have established a programme called Building Hope to support care leavers across five south London boroughs. Saint-Gobain has set up a community-training academy called Future Place in Lewisham. Saint-Gobain and Barnardo’s have now partnered together to make a tangible difference by providing care leavers with support and new opportunities.

The programme developed by Saint-Gobain and Barnardo’s sees a Building Hope programme operating in the Future Place Academy, Lewisham. The scheme provides construction training to care leavers and introduces them to potential employers through Saint-Gobain’s vast customer network. Barnardo’s provides wraparound pastoral support in the centre and is also delivering a supported lodging service. Saint-Gobain is also supporting Barnardo’s with funds and expertise on another Building Hope project; the construction of new local residential homes for young people leaving care.

There is a skills shortage of ‘dry-lining’ labourers in the construction industry. Dry lining is the fitting of plasterboard or other board material to finish walls and ceilings, in place of the more traditional plastering. Saint-Gobain has funded the Future Place academy in Lewisham, South-East London. The level of funding has been upwards of £160,000 for the first year. The project started in December 2017 with the appointment of staff. A pilot training course was run between April and July 2018, and the second programme will run from September to December 2018. Employers linked to Saint-Gobain attended the launch event and the pilot graduation in July.

‘This project is a real win-win because not only are we taking steps to address a huge issue for our customers. We can also give these vulnerable young people the opportunity to have a long and fulfilling career.’
Shenaaz Chenia, Director of Industry and Community Training Saint-Gobain Delegation UK & Ireland

The partnership

The establishment of the Future Place Academy has been the product of an innovative and complex partnership involving the private, public and voluntary sectors.

Saint-Gobain has provided the funding for staff and resources, as well as access to employers in the supply chain for advice and work experience. Jewson provided toolboxes and Weber gave tools and equipment for use by trainees. British Gypsum also donated materials and their trainers reviewed the quality of the technical training. The Director of Community Training is the main link between the company and the Academy.

Barnardo’s has provided the staff and management of the programme.

Barking and Dagenham College has provided the technical trainers and course accreditation.

Phoenix Housing, a Lewisham housing association, has provided the premises for the academy, the Meadows Centre in Bellingham, South East London. The building is managed by Barking and Dagenham College.

The offer

The programme provides pre-employment training, work experience, and personal support, as well as construction-skills development. It is targeted at young people aged 16-25 who are not in education, employment or training (NEET), looked after or leaving care and residents of the London Borough of Lewisham. There is a detailed recruitment plan in place to ensure that as much as possible is known about those enrolling on the programme. Referrals are mainly from personal advisers, carers, Job Centre coaches or social workers. The referral and selection process involves an application answering questions such as: ‘What is their housing situation? Do they have any financial issues? Have they been in trouble with the law? What are their previous qualifications? Do they have any addiction issues?’

This helps enormously when the team meets the young people for a practical, taster session and subsequent interview. Following that they attend an enrolment day which is managed by the College. This is important as, through the College, they have access to bursary and discretionary funds. Upon joining the course, the initial two-week consists of an induction-and-assessment period enables various individual assessments and diagnostic tests are carried out for functional skills, as well as the completion of Individual Learning Plans, and the Young Person’s Outcome Star (licensed from Triangle Consulting Social Enterprise Ltd) to be used to assess where the young people are and to guide 1:1 working. There is an action plan attached to identify goals that they will work towards during the programme.

Over the 16-week period the successful recruits have the opportunity to obtain:

96 hours vocational training

Gain a Dry Lining award, Level 2 City & Guilds, a CSCS card (essential health-and-safety qualification allowing access to building sites) and Functional Skills in numeracy and literacy.

120 hours' work placement

Spread over about five weeks – getting to know the industry through work experience at reputable organisations.

Employability, life skills and personal development

Group and 1–1 support to help young people towards independent living, employment and accommodation.


Advice and guidance from individuals within the construction industry (someone at their work placement but trained and given a DBS by Barnardo’s).

Employer contact

They will have the opportunity to meet employers through day visits to workplaces, work placements and talks at the Academy.

In addition, the Academy provides: breakfast and lunch; support to maintain tenancy; secure accommodation; access to financial assistance; and free Personal Protective clothing (PPE).

‘I had a bad start to my life and moved around lots of different hostels and foster homes. I just wanted to get a job and sort my life out, and I loved the academy course since the very first second. Now I want to get a job, then a house and then I’d like to open my own business.’
Former student Derek, aged 20

The first pilot programme ran for a shorter period of 12-weeks between April to July 2018. It was initially offered exclusively to Lewisham residents, but with recruitment below anticipated numbers, it was widened to include the adjacent boroughs of Bromley, Croydon, Lambeth and Southwark. The academy is now working with personal advisers and social workers to recruit eligible young people to the programme from across the five boroughs. The pilot began with 12 young people and 8 went through the programme, with 7 graduating and 2 entering further training and education.

There are various options at the end of the programme such as: an apprenticeship with an (work-experience) employer; or alternative employment; or enrolling on a different course with the College. For two months beyond the 16 weeks they will receive further 1:1 sessions to address progression pathways through The BUILD Model.

The wraparound support programme which Building Hope has developed for care leavers is called THE BUILD model. This is adapted from a scheme for ex-offenders developed at a project called Recycling Lives based in Preston.

There are six elements which can be worked through as required by YP in a “building block” approach, which is needs-led:

  1. Health and Wellbeing
  2. Practical Skills
  3. Learning & Employment
  4. Housing
  5. Finance
  6. Personal and Professional Development (Exit Plan, finding work/in-work support).

The BUILD Model offers holistic support for young people through a Project Worker (PW) in group and 1:1 sessions: supporting participants towards sustained independence, employability and accommodation. This is where Building Hope links with existing services for care leavers through local authority and local charities, e.g. Phoenix Housing Services provides input and support on tenancy issues. Lewisham Young People’s Service run by Compass provides on-site information, advice and guidance in sessions covering sexual health, relationships, drugs and alcohol.

Project management

The project is staffed by three full-time and one part-time member of staff. It is led by a Children’s Service Manager supported by a Functional Skills tutor and a Project Worker, who provides the ‘wraparound’ support for care leavers. There is an administrative assistant who works part-time. There is also a part-time Employer & Training Manager from the College who works for two days a week.

The Children’s Service Manager reports to Barnardo’s Head of Operations for London and the Midlands, as well as stakeholders across Barnardo’s London Region and Academy Partnership. There is a steering group representing all the stakeholders in the Academy which has been important for keeping the project on track. This has meant regular reporting mechanisms and improved communication and monitoring of performance of the activities taking place in the centre.


The initial challenge was trying to make the building fit for purpose in a short period of time. A number of building issues included security, waste management, putting in office space, creating room for 1:1 meetings, and developing the dry-lining training area. A key difficulty was establishing and maintaining effective lines of communication between partners and building maintenance issues. This problem eased once roles and responsibilities were clearly delegated and work was undertaken to improve the Meadows Centre so that the dry-lining courses could take place.

The second challenge was that starting recruitment in January meant that the pool comprised long-term unemployed, those with additional learning needs and those that had either dropped out or not got onto courses in the preceding September. Young people entering the programme had low attainment in Maths and English due to poor education experience and unsupported learning difficulties such as autism as well as other issues such as mental health, addiction and debt. This meant they were a more challenging group but the pilot completion rate was deemed satisfactory given these issues. The two-week induction involves using various diagnostic tools that allow staff to identify the issues that will need to be tackled.

A further problem with recruitment was that there were insufficient numbers in the pilot when it was restricted to Lewisham residents. Hence, the opening up to other South East London residents, lowering the age of eligibility to 16 and including all NEET young people, not just care leavers. Working with 16-year-olds enabled closer collaboration with the Virtual Schools. Marketing literature and the outreach strategy have also been revised and improved.

A third challenge is the timing of the work placements because the dry-lining teams can only go in when other work has been completed. So, there can be delays which means that the timing of the placements needs to be flexible and early identification and engagement with employers is crucial.

A fourth challenge is being able to recruit and train mentors from among the employers offering work placements. An option is for Barnardos to recruit and train mentors so they can be supported and equipped to work with care leavers and require DBS checking to work with vulnerable young people. They may have company mentoring or coaching programmes but Building Hope mentoring will have its own structure that they will be asked to follow. It will prove difficult to build a good relationship between mentor and mentee over the short time of the placement. However, it will be useful to have mentors in place, if the young person subsequently becomes an apprentice or employee.

A fifth challenge was making sure that the technical tutors are meeting industry standards. Saint-Gobain trainers have been in to assess some of the work being undertaken. Tutors and young people have also been invited to attend the British Gypsum Academies where they can learn how to do ceilings (not available at The Meadows Centre).

Tips – do’s and don’ts

DO engage employers to make sure that they can shape the programme, to ensure it meets their needs, but also to provide quality control.
DO ensure that referral tools and induction and assessment processes provide sufficient information to help identify the issues facing each young person recruited to the programme.
DO make sure that all tools and equipment are on site before commencing the training programme.
DO make sure that all partners have a clear, written programme setting out roles, responsibilities and deadlines.
DO undertake regular reviews between trainee, employer and provider.
DO make sure that you have the ‘right’ staff who are able to work with challenging young people and who are sensitive to their needs, while remaining flexible.
DO factor in the need to provide funds to cover lunch money and travel costs.

Share This

Share This

Share this page with your friends and colleagues!