Case Study


The Rothschild Foundation has supported ToolShed since 2019, funding both their construction training programme and digital provision to enable continued learning during the pandemic.

Based in High Wycombe, ToolShed supports young people to start a career in construction. Often these young people have left school with few or no qualifications, but want to learn construction trades and suit a more hands-on work placement approach. David Lett, who co-founded the programme, explores the strengths of ToolShed’s tutoring model.

“Graduates leave ToolShed with positive attitudes and a drive to make their own living.  This doesn’t happen by chance and is very much down to our positive reinforcement model.  We focus our time on rewarding positive behaviours.  Our young people quickly learn that they get more from us – in focus, time, praise, attention, direct help, work experience – when they act and behave in a positive way”.

Over the last three years over 80% of the young people enrolled on ToolShed’s learning programmes have progressed on to full or part-time employment, an apprenticeship, a course at College to further their skills or a voluntary role with a third sector organisation.

ToolShed has grown, expanding its operation beyond Buckinghamshire into 6 sites in neighbouring counties, and taking on a larger cohort of young people. This success has driven a need to hire experienced carpenters to supervise work experience for students. By reaching out to HMP Spring Hill, ToolShed were introduced to Dominic.

Dominic had been a Director of a Construction Company until he made a grave error of judgement and received a custodial sentence for a driving offence. He started working with ToolShed on paid day release from March last year and has become one of the organisation’s most inspiring and engaging instructors. On release from HMP Spring Hill, Dominic stayed with ToolShed permanently as a Contracts and Site Operations Manager.

David Lett comments “With support from the Rothschild Foundation we have been able to expand our work placement programme, which in turn required recruitment of more experienced staff. Dominic was the first through the door and he’s made a brilliantly positive impact”.

ToolShed staff, like Dominic, have provided a life-line for young people who have felt anxious and frustrated by the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. A grant from the Rothschild Foundation’s Covid Support Fund provided laptops and data subscriptions for young people who did not have access to either. ToolShed moved all skills-sharing and teaching sessions online in the first lockdown, meaning that tutor-student contact was maintained during the pandemic.