Building Heroes

January will see the first cohort of veterans starting out on an Engineering Pathway at Colchester Institute’s Harwich Campus.

Building Heroes, a Charity set up in 2014, provide training, mentoring and personal support to enable veterans, service leavers and the military family to achieve a rapid transition into employment in the building trades. They deliver an intensive programme, which has a 90% success rate. The programme equips learners to progress into employment, self-employment, or undertake further training to enhance their new skills. Their aim is to tackle unemployment among veterans by offering them a seamless transition into a new career. 

There is currently a 250,000 shortage of skilled labour in construction – a situation that is projected to get worse with a maturing workforce heading for retirement and the potential reduction in access to the European labour market post-Brexit. This industry urgently requires people who not only have technical skills but also possess the right personal traits such as reliability, time-keeping, organisation, co-ordination and team-working. 

Building Heroes have been working with full time education Colleges across the UK providing the foundation course in property maintenance to help veterans train for a new career. Their current course provides a Diploma level Construction skills course, Health and safety in construction environment and a CSCS card.  The Charity has certainly had a busy few months with new centres opening in Salisbury and Middlesbrough and the new engineering course in January, the organisation now has seven venues across England (two, in West Sussex and Cheshire, with accommodation on-site). What’s more, after just three years working in partnership with colleges, the charity recently held a special event at its West Sussex centre to celebrate its 500th graduate; 2020 will see its 1000th!

The new Engineering course is a pilot scheme initially being run from Colchester Institute’s Harwich Campus. The 5-week course will not only give attendees a diploma in Performing Engineering Operations which covers benchwork, welding and Fabrication, mig, mag and flux core equipment, arc welding, health & Safety and a CSCS card.

Chief executive Brendan Williams said, “we are delighted to add this extra Pathway for our Veterans. This new collaboration will enable us to offer our services to more veterans and service leavers. Creating further positive opportunities for the entire military family” .

Pathways into Construction
Building Heroes runs a career changer programme for Armed Forces Service Leavers and Veterans looking to enter the Construction Industry which, having doubled in size each year for the last four years, has re-skilled over 600 to date and plans to deliver over 500 places next year. Our Foundation in Property Maintenance Programme, run in association with Further Education colleges since 2016, helps our learners make an informed decision on their future career direction. They were established as a Charity in 2014 in direct response to a request from within the Armed Forces to create a Pathway into Construction for all Service Leavers.

With successful transitions into Plumbing, Electricals, Plastering, Tiling, Decorating and Multi trades they know they deliver what is required. Giving learners the opportunity to sample multiple trades in a safe environment while also delivering a meaningful real work experience through small community focused projects helps them to decide on their future career.

Their success is measured not by training numbers but by successful outcomes, so they ensure delivery is truly a Pathway into Construction. Success comes in many flavours and they look to get 90% of learners to move on into either employment, self-employment or further training.

Studying for a Level 1 Diploma in Construction Skills, a Level 1 Award in Health and Safety in a Construction Environment and a CSCS Labourers Card all our learners are not only work ready but site ready. With pass rates over 98% demonstrating their approach can deliver success.

They currently deliver at sites in Cheshire, Essex, Hampshire, Sussex and Wiltshire with a new centre opening in the Tees Valley in January 2020. As many as 100 places are available each year at each centre giving a 2019-20 delivery capability of over 500 places. With a wait list of over 500 and an application velocity of nearly 1,000 per year they are currently in under-supply due to financial constraints. They have plans to open a further four centres over the next two years creating a capability of 1,000 per year still solely dedicated to Service Leavers and Veterans but will need to find sustainable funding from the Industry or from Government if they are to succeed in the long run.

Let’s look at some of our success stories;

Nathan Blewer
Tank Commander, now running his own company
“Essentially, I was looking for a new career direction. I was medically discharged from the Royal Tank Regiment after serving for 13 years. Unfortunately, Tank Commanding isn’t a requirement in Civilian life!

I was keen to learn a trade and had already decided to train as an electrician. However, having multi- trade skills has allowed me to carry out a wider, broader scope or work, and has meant that I haven’t had to call out other trades either prior to or post installation work.

After completing the Building Heroes Programme and Level 2 & 3 City & Guilds electrical course, I have completely refurbished a house from plumbing, electrics, central heating, plastering, kitchen and bathroom. The house hadn’t been touched for nearly 30 years, and 90% of it relied on skills I had learnt on the course.

Having worked for a local contractor to hone my skills I have now founded by own company. This has all really been down to the skills learnt on the Building Heroes course.

The course not only gave me a new skill set, it also helped me decide on a specific direction to train in, equally importantly it also gave me the assurance to try something I wouldn’t have before. It is all about having confidence, confidence to try something new, and then more importantly confidence to get out and do it!”

Ebenezer Ansah
Soldier, now Maintenance Operative
Ebenezer has served four and a half years with the Cheshire Regiment leaving almost ten years before he came to us. When he started the course he was unemployed and claiming benefits. He had worked as a labourer but due to lack of qualifications was struggling to get better work.

Ebenezer completed the course and went on to get a role at Tottenham Hotspurs in the maintenance team. He has since been there for 18 months. When he came to us he was low in mood and thought he would never find work to support his family, since leaving he has had continuous employment.

Michael Findlay
Soldier, now running his own company
‘Building Heroes has given me a new lease of life’. After three years in the Army Air Corps Michael was unemployed, on ESA and suffering from PTSD. Referred to Building Heroes by the RFEA he was keen to find a new pathway and had always been keen to get into Construction.

Following successful graduation Michael found work with a Commercial Bathroom contractor and immediately impressed with the tiling skills he had gained on the program. When the contractor went into liquidation Michael and a business partner took on the business and they are now thriving employing more workers including other Building Heroes graduates.

‘Without Building Heroes and my daughter I wouldn’t be here today’ 

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