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Author: Missllyons Published: 15th June 2011 09:15

Local vocational training centre, Springvale Learning is giving students in West Belfast the chance to build themselves a better future by purchasing a derelict property for the students to refurbish as a placement project to enable them to achieve their qualifications and complete their apprenticeship.

Springvale Learning is a registered charity that offers employed and unemployed people an extensive range of professional and technical training for 16-18 year old school leavers, an appropriate work placement is a vital requirement in order to gain a qualification. However, with the current economic downturn, finding employers who are in a position to help is proving to be difficult, particularly within the construction industry, which has been especially hard hit.  

Bill Atkinson, Training Manager of Springvale Learning, said:

"The demand for new properties has reduced considerably and construction companies are finding it very tough. Our students are eager but it has been a struggle to find construction placements to do the work based assessments necessary. This delay has been very frustrating for students keen to progress. Springvale Learning recognised that we needed to do something more radical to change the dynamic while we await the upturn in the economy."

"We purchased an abandoned three story end terrace property near the peace line in West Belfast. It has been home to hundreds of local pigeons more recently and needs a serious amount of TLC put into it. The building was an eye sore locally, a major fire hazard and a danger to the local community.  Our students plan to renovate it, sell it and then use the proceeds to purchase another derelict property and so on. The project will also teach students about entrepreneurship, self employment as a property developer."

Kevin Heron, a trainee joiner in Springvale Learning, aged 18 welcomes the project:

"Over the past 8 months I have sent away about 150 job applications. Those employers who bothered to reply told me I wasn't successful as I had no experience. Springvale Learning closed the deal on the building and we were able to start the renovation a few days ago. It's great to be able to put everything that I have learned in the workshop into real work practice. We are all really excited to be part of Project 220 and determined to turn this house from an eyesore into a asset during the next 9 months. It will mean that I will walk away with great experience for my CV and achieve my NVQ in the process.'

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