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Construction campus offers ex-military staff new beginnings

Posted: 31 March 2021

West Nottinghamshire College has joined forces with national charity Building Heroes to help ex-military personnel in the East Midlands to build new careers in construction.

The college is providing its specialist construction skills training for service-leavers, veterans and their close family members 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 each five-week programme, learners will 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 is delivering these accredited courses throughout the academic year, with its first Building Heroes group already in training and benefiting from the experience and knowledge of West Notts’ expert tutors at its construction centre – known as Station Park – based in Kirkby-in-Ashfield.

Paul Bliss, 55, from Herefordshire, said: “I was in the army and I semi-retired three years ago after completing contract work overseas. I heard about the Building Heroes project after chatting to a friend who is planning to do a similar course in the summer. It’s been brilliant so far – I’m in the second week now and we’ve all learnt so much. I didn’t know anyone on the course, but we’ve all just clicked and made good friends.

“I think I’ll probably be looking towards bricklaying as the skill to concentrate on. In the future I’d love to put my new skills into practice and get some real experience working with more skilled tradesmen and maybe give something back to communities. I live quite close to the Buchanan Trust, which is a charity for ex-service people and their families. I wouldn’t mind doing some work for them and see if I can make a difference.”

Kiran Hullait, 23, from Leicester, was in the army and was medically discharged in March 2020. She said: “Not long after I was discharged the Covid pandemic hit so I was left wondering what I could do next. The army told me about this course, so I followed it up because I wanted to look into getting some experience in a job that was hands-on.

“On this programme we’ll get to try out a number of trades such as brickwork, carpentry and plastering as well as plumbing and painting. I think I’ll be veering towards plastering – I quite enjoy it! My house needs renovating so I might put the skills to the test at home! I’d like to find an apprenticeship next in landscape gardening or because I’ve got experience working with animals, it might be nice to put these trade skills to use in an animal park – that would be a great area to work in.”

Phil Clark, assistant principal of construction and building services said: “We’ve welcomed our first cohort of the Building Heroes initiative to the Station Park campus and we’ve seen a very positive start to the course.

“To play a part in the re-training and resettlement of current servicewomen and men is something our curriculum is very proud of, particularly as we have ex-forces personnel within our staff team.

“With a dedicated workshop and staff team in place, we fully expect the Building Heroes programme to go from strength to strength and look forward to welcoming future cohorts.”

Karen Jefford, chief operations officer of Building Heroes, said: “We are thrilled to be working with the skilled staff at West Nottinghamshire College to deliver our programme in the East Midlands. The construction industry already faces a skills shortage, and with the huge investment the government has recently made to ensure we Build Back Better, there has never been a healthier time to enter the profession.

“Working closely with national and local partners to provide work experience and job opportunities, we look forward to.”

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