A GAMING cafe run by out-of-work youths has opened in Brentford High Street.
The Docking Station, which was officially launched last Friday (March 11), will be manned by nine young apprentices who have struggled to find employment elsewhere.
They helped transform the long-abandoned shop, with help from construction students at Feltham Skills Centre, at the same time as completing a basic catering course and training in health and safety, first aid and food hygiene. They will continue training at Thames Valley University.
The cafe and restaurant, where customers can try out the latest video games while they eat, is believed to be the first retail social enterprise project in the UK developed by school students.
It is the brainchild of youngsters at Hounslow Manor School, who competed against pupils from schools across the borough in a Dragons' Den-style competition to decide what to do with the empty building.
Former Feltham Community College student Damien Sealy, who lives in Hanworth, is one of the apprentices running the cafe. It's been hard finding work. I'd been looking for a job for about a year and this is a great opportunity," said the 21-year-old. "I've got a PS3 (games console) at home and I think this is somewhere I would probably come anyway if I wasn't working here."
As well as video games, the cafe features music stations where visitors can listen to a wide range of songs, including those by up-and-coming local artists.
The cafe, which is open to people of all ages, also includes a serviced workspace on the first floor available for use by local businesses and charities.
Shaliza Halani was part of the winning team at Hounslow Manor School who came up with the idea for the shop.
"It's really exciting to see the cafe up and running. It's better than we imagined it would be," said the 16-year-old. "There's nothing else like this here and it definitely stands out on the high street."
The Social Enterprise High Street Challenge was run by the Hounslow Education Business Partnership, with support from a number of partners.
For more information about the cafe, visit www.docking-station.org.uk .