Late bid to scale the job ladder
Now he's enrolled on an information technology training course at the Apex centre in north London, working towards a national vocational qualification level 2, and his ambition to run a video shop looks a little more achievable.
"This is the first time I have really used a computer. I've never done this much work in my whole life and I have learned a lot. I started a bit late but it'll be worth it in the end."
It's a familiar story among the 24 young people on the three-month course at Apex - a private training provider run by a charity and funded by the local TEC. Several of them have already found jobs.
One boy, a former persistent truant whose schooling effectively finished at 15, now volunteers to help with publicity for the two-day-a-week course.
Heather, 24, thinks the course represents her last chance. "If I hadn't heard about this course I would be sitting at home bored. I didn't want to go back to college because I did a Business and Technology Education Council course and it wasn't a pleasant experience. But I have really pushed myself and it has been one of the best things I have ever done."
Mario, 21, spent four years working in catering but the long hours and low pay forced him to rethink his career plans. After three months of unemployment, he heard about the course and has now found part-time work as an administrator with Haringey Council.
"Before this I didn't really know how to write a CV. They helped me with application forms and interviews. The first time I went for a job after starting here I got it."
The centre also houses an employment agency, training and language lessons for Vietnamese refugees and a scheme to help ex-offenders back into work.
"The course is aimed at people who have dropped out," says centre manager Kate Martin. "It gives them some breathing space and practical help. And we give them a lot more attention than they had at school."