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East London teenager named runner-up in Young Builder of the Year

Release Date: 20 Oct 2017

A 16-year-old from Hackney who turned his life around with support from Barnardo’s has won second place in the national Young Builder of the Year Awards.

Zafar Tandel was named runn-up in the Young Builder of the Yeear awards at the House of Commons

Zafar Tandel had been excluded from college and was in danger of drifting towards low-level crime and anti-social behaviour when he was referred to The Hub Skills Centre, an alternative education centre run by the children’s charity in Stepney Green.

The Barnardo’s team there encouraged Zafar to start learning practical skills like carpentry and painting and decorating, and after building a relationship with the project workers he began engaging with the programme, quickly developing a passion for construction.

Zafar’s tutor nominated him for Youthbuild UK’s Young Builder of the Year Awards, which celebrates the success of young people who have overcome barriers as they enter into the construction industry.

Zafar Tandel was named runn-up in the Young Builder of the Yeear awards at the House of Commons (photo by Andy Aitchison / YBUK)

He was among a handful of finalists invited to the Houses of Parliament for the awards ceremony on October 18, when he was named as the sole runner-up in the 14-18 category thanks to the “exceptional progress” that he has made.

Zafar, of the Stellman Close Estate in Stoke Newington, said:

After I’d been kicked out of school I had nothing to do, and I was doing a lot of stupid things. I didn’t really care about anything, I was just messing around.

When I got to The Hub I saw that what I was doing wasn’t life. I realised I couldn’t go on like that and I had to start trying. In my last few months there I just turned things around and accomplished everything I needed to do.

The thing about The Hub is that everyone gets along and everything feels relaxed, like a family home. The tutors motivate you, they never give up on you and they’re always positive no matter what. I feel very proud and happy to have had the support that I had.

John Gallagher, Barnardo’s project worker at The Hub, said:

Once we’d gained Zafar’s trust and he realised The Hub offered a positive alternative to school, his attitude started to change. He started attending more often and taking pride in his work.

Zafar went from strength to strength. The change in him was really unbelievable, and he’s become a fine young man who can look forward to a really positive future.

Cathie Short, school liaison placement officer at New Regent’s College in Hackney, who referred Zafar to The Hub, said:

I’m so proud of Zafar. He always had massive potential that was sadly missed in mainstream education. This award proves that alternative provision can be so successful for our young people.

Zafar was given a framed certificate, a cheque for £125 and a £250 tool voucher. He is currently working at a newsagent in Camden while applying for apprenticeships in the construction industry.

Another young person who attended The Hub, Anthony Brown, was also highly commended in the 14-18 category.


Notes to editors

For more information please contact Dan Hodges on 07887 737 048 or email

Picture captions

1: PLEASE CREDIT this picture © Andy Aitchison / YBUK: Zafar Tandel receiving his certificate with John Meaden of event sponsors Toolstation, Youthbuild UK president Baroness Smith of Basildon, and Lindsay Hoyle MP at the House of Commons.

2/5: Zafar Tandel on the House of Commons terrace with Cathie Short, school liaison placement officer at New Regent’s College, and Barnardo’s project worker John Gallagher. Pls credit Barnardo’s.

3: Zafar Tandel, runner-up in the Young Builder of the Year Awards 2017, on the House of Commons terrace.

Young Builder of the Year Awards: The Youthbuild UK Young Builder of the Year Awards celebrate the achievements of young people who despite having to overcome personal barriers have succeeded in training for and or gaining employment in the construction industry.

The competition began in 2000 is open to young builders from across the UK.

For more information please visit

Barnardo’s: Last year 272,000 children, young people, parents and carers were supported by Barnardo’s through more than 1,000 services across the UK, such as young carers, care leavers, foster carers and adoptive parents, training and skills or parenting classes. We work to transform the lives of the UK’s most vulnerable children and every year we help thousands of families to build a better future. But we cannot do it without you.

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