Published: 1 February 2021
I’m learning a trade and life skills, I’m not hanging out with people who were a bad influence on me anymore.
A new scheme launched by Westminster City Council is helping young people into work during the pandemic.
Westminster Wheels offers people aged 18-24 who live in Westminster and who are not currently in work or education the chance to become a qualified bike mechanic.
Successful applicants receive accredited training from an experienced bicycle mechanic, followed by a guaranteed job with Westminster Wheels for six months. All employees are paid London Living Wage and are offered support to find a long-term career in the industry.
The project, developed by Westminster City Council, and delivered in partnership with Groundwork London and Cycle Confident, is already transforming lives, helping young people on a path to learning new skills and seizing employment opportunities in a growing industry. The feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive. One participant saying: "There’s no typical day at Westminster Wheels. I’m learning a trade and life skills.
"We could be spending all day on one bike or get through three. They may be something I’m comfortable with or I might have to learn a completely new skill.
"I’m not hanging out with people who were a bad influence on me anymore."
The programme is not only equipping young people with essential skills and allowing them to forge new friendships, but also enabling them to give back to their communities. The trainees have learned to refurbish unwanted bikes and turn them into high-quality, affordable bikes for Westminster residents. Each year the team refurbishes more than 2,400 bikes and 20% of those are donated to people who need them most.
Children in Westminster have benefitted from a donation of bicycles worked on by those in the Westminster Wheels programme. The parents of 8-year-old Sofian, who received a refurbished bike in December, said: "We are so grateful for this wonderful gift for my son. He is so excited to ride it every day and always wants to travel, even shop with it."
Mohammed, who is 6 and received a bike from the Westminster Wheels team, said: "I love the bike because it has a star Transformer sign and it's a BMX.
"I can do tricks on it and when I grow up, I'm going to go to the stadium to ride in a competition and I'm going to get the trophy."
Councillor Matthew Green, Cabinet Member for Business, Licensing and Planning, said: “The pandemic has stripped opportunity away from people of all ages but it has been particularly cruel for young people at the start of their careers. Westminster Wheels is creating that opportunity again and offering young people hope for a brighter future."
"This programme is providing young people with the support and practical training they need to forge successful careers in an exciting and growing industry.
"We are committed to helping all of our young people develop their talent and I hope this initiative inspires other similar projects across the city."
Members of the public can donate any unwanted bikes by completing the form on the Westminster City Council website.