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Changing lives through building skills

Posted: 04 January 2023

West Nottinghamshire College has celebrated military veterans’ construction skills success with national charity Building Heroes and Leicester-based Davidsons Homes.

The college has been training ex-military personnel to build new careers in construction as part of an exciting link-up with the organisation, which supports former armed services men and women into employment through an introductory course in construction trades.

During a five-week programme, learners receive hands-on tuition in key areas of construction and safety, resulting in Level 1 Construction Skills and Level 1 Health and Safety in a Construction Environment qualifications. Trainees are also funded to take their Construction Skills Certification Scheme test to get their CSCS Card, necessary to work in any construction environment.

The college delivered the first three intakes of these accredited courses at its Kirkby-in-Ashfield construction campus back in 2021 and is now delivering the same successful programme at Davidsons Homes’ Ibstock training centre in Leicester.

December saw the graduation of the latest intake of ex-servicemen, who have successfully achieved their qualification and CSCS Card, taking the total number of veterans trained on the East Midlands’ programmes to 108.

On Thursday, 15 December, the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire Colonel David Young presented 13 students with their certificates of achievement, together with John Middleton, centre co-ordinator for the East Midlands, the founder and chief executive of Building Heroes, Brendan Williams and teachers from the college.

Throughout their five-week programme, students were able to visit one of Davidsons Homes construction sites to practice their skills in the range of trades being taught and met with tradespeople on-site to discover how to link their qualifications with real-life working environments.

As part of the site visits Davidsons Homes provide students with a presentation which incorporates the roles and responsibilities within a construction environment, outlining the range of jobs as well as the process of home-building from design to completion.

The ceremony saw 13 students proudly accept their certificates of achievement with five of this current intake having successfully secured employment with Davidsons Homes in roles such as business support analyst, trainee bedroom fitter, trainee assistant site manager and driver.

Daren Lewis, 43, was one of the students receiving his certificate of achievement last night. Daren, from Grantham, was in the British Army’s infantry, but left on medical discharge in 2018.

He already had some prior knowledge of trade skills prior to the course, having watched some practical videos on You Tube. Daren said: “This course taught me such a lot and as a result I’m so much more confident and prepared to take on construction tasks on my own.

“It was such a good programme and I’d highly recommend it, as you learn such a range of skills. I’m now in full-time employment working four days on, four days off and during my time off I am looking into setting up in the world of property maintenance.”

Craig Hodgson, 40, from Melton Mowbray, is a chef in the British Army. Craig also graduated from the Building Heroes project this week. He said: “On 10 January 2023 I will have served 22 years in the army. I have decided to leave and focus on my family rather than being away all the time on short-notice deployments.

“I’ve found this course really interesting learning new skills. It has been a challenge at times but it’s been very exciting and worthwhile and it’s really expanded my skillset – I’d recommend it to anyone. I have further courses to take up in the new year such as plumbing and heating, kitchen fitting and a domestic electrical course. I’m now actively looking for employment within the construction sector.”

David Cope, the college’s Directorate Internal Quality Assurance Lead, said: “This group of veterans have worked so well together. They really took up the challenge of mastering a range of new skills and it’s brilliant to know that some have already gained employment with Davidsons.

“On behalf of tutor Stan Smith and myself, being two ex-service personnel, we’re very proud to be able to give something back to support our veterans learning new skills and having a positive learning experience.”

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