Youth work and fitness apprentices from the Downside Fisher Youth Club visited City Hall on Monday to receive their NVQ certificates at a ceremony hosted by London Assembly member Val Shawcross.
Five young people recruited by Downside Fisher Youth Club in Druid Street have successfully completed their year-long youth work apprenticeship and have been awarded a variety of qualifications including the NVQ Level 2 youth work, emergency first aid, health & safety in the workplace, customer service and key skills in literacy and numeracy.
A further seven young people have completed an NVQ Level 2 apprenticeship in gym fitness with Andrea Eccles from Lifetime.
During the economic downturn Downside Fisher has seen a 500 per cent growth in members aged 16 -19 and these older young people are now the club's largest cohort.
In response to demand from this older group Downside Fisher established its apprenticeship scheme to enable local young people to gain valuable on-the-job training and qualifications.
"With one in five young people in the UK unemployed we are faced with the harsh reality experienced by young people today," says Claudia Webbe, chief executive of Downside Fisher Youth Club.
"In inner city areas like Southwark, the figures are more like one in three.
"We could not ignore this need; more and more young people aged 16 plus were becoming idle because of the lack of employment and job opportunities.
"With this scheme our aim was to offer young people alternative avenues to train and gain valuable on-the-job training, experience and qualifications."
Downside Fisher Youth Club joined forces with learning providers B2B Engage, All Dimensions and Lifetime Fitness to provide work-based learning qualifications.
International firms such as Nomura, Barclaycard Finance and ISG provided employability days, CV writing advice and mock interviews.
Since his apprenticeship 18-year-old Olu Mason has gone on to full-time employment and is starting his own business providing youth events and activities for local colleges and schools.
"The apprenticeship programme was a great start for me developing valuable employment skills, knowledge and experience," said Olu.
Val Shawcross, London Assembly member for Lambeth and Southwark, said: "I am delighted to be hosting this achievement award at City Hall. Apprenticeship schemes demonstrate one of the things we need in times of high youth unemployment.
"Downside Fisher Youth Club has made a significant contribution in enabling young people to obtain valuable employment skills, experience and qualifications."
Claudia Webbe added: "In recent months we have seen a rise in the number of young people showing an interest and applying to be an apprentice or volunteer within the youth club.
"This highlights that despite the harsh economic climate and outlook young people are thinking about the future and are equipping themselves not only with education and learning but with experience too, this scheme has given them hope."
In her speech at Monday's champagne reception, Riverside ward councillor Eliza Mann paid special tribute to those at Downside Fisher who provided shelter and first aid to a club member who was stabbed in a recent incident in Druid Street.