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Graduates from the Building Heroes scheme with James Cracknell and represntatives from West Suffolk College and Eastern Education Group as well as Building Heroes

Graduates from the Building Heroes scheme with James Cracknell and represntatives from West Suffolk College and Eastern Education Group as well as Building Heroes.

A former Olympic rower celebrated with a group of current and ex-service students as they sailed away with certificates during their graduation ceremony in Essex.

James Cracknell, OBE, came to show his support for a charity project called Building Heroes which gives fully-funded training to those who have just left (or are about to leave) their military careers for civilian life.

(The scheme also supports spouses of military personnel and their children who are over the age of 19).

The programme supports students to participate in a construction course, giving them skills in areas such as bricklaying, carpentry, decorating, tiling, joinery, plastering and plumbing.

Participants also gain a selection of industry standard qualifications that support their future career prospects.

The training Academy is led by the multi-award-winning charity Building Heroes, with training provided by West Suffolk College and Eastern Education Group and is supported and hosted by the Vistry Group at the Bovis Homes site in Coggeshall.

Mr Cracknell, who is standing as an MP for Colchester in the next general election, didn’t mention politics during his one hour stay, instead happily chatted to graduates, Building Heroes staff, college representatives and industry professionals.

During the graduation event he delivered a brief speech where he reflected on his time transitioning from rowing into different career paths and likened the path of leaving a sporting career as a similar experience to leaving the military. To the graduates he said: “It’s brilliant you are upskilling and now you have skills that will live with you forever - congratulations.”

Wayne, 53, from Clacton on Sea has served 23 years in the Army. He said: “I wanted to do something different after 23 years in the army. This course was good - and the instructors were brilliant. If people read this, I’d say to others that doing this is a no-brainer. Overall it was awesome. I’ve already built a bar at home in the garden so I’m using the skills I’ve gained.”

Alex, 34, lives in Colchester. He is eligible for the course because his wife is in the army. Alex has just finished his last day working as a tax lawyer in London. He will be off to Germany shortly with his wife where he will be looking to use the skills he gained on the course. Alex said: “My wife found out about this course and discovered that spouses (of military personnel) could get involved. I’ve really enjoyed it. It was a brilliant five weeks. It’s a good foundation and we get a CSCS card that allows you work on building sites.

“I’m going to take this on and be a plumber. I’m doing another health and safety and energy course in the future and look to pick up some work. I’m throwing myself into it and it’s just thanks to the course that I have got to this stage. It’s a brilliant team (West Suffolk College and Building Heroes) and they are always there to support you.”

Clare Guest, academy lead at Building Heroes said: “We’ve had good feedback from the students, and it was great to be able to recognise their achievements at the graduation ceremony – although we pride ourselves on continuing to support everyone in the future – not just while they are on the course.”

She continues: “For anyone who reads this and wants to get involved I’d say that this is a great opportunity for people to learn new skills and consider a career path that they maybe hadn’t thought about before - the breadth of roles and opportunities in construction mean there is something for everyone - and the academy offers a great learning environment where you are with like-minded people who all have a connection to the military.”

Alan Bridgman is an apprenticeship and training co-ordinator for Rose Builders. He said: “Rose Builders have supported Building Heroes for many years and if graduates want work in the construction industry we are keen to try and help out. Rose Builders have directly employed three graduates to date with a fourth graduate joining us next month after having interviewed with us shortly after completing the programme at Coggeshall. I and Rose Builders believe that bringing the forces, education and industry together is a fantastic idea.”

Ben Rowlinson is a Lecturer for Personal and Professional Development for West Suffolk College and Eastern Education Group. At the ceremony Ben said to the graduates: “You made every day effortless. Thanks for all your time and if you ever need a reference, I’ll always vouch for you – well done.”

Bex Hammond is a Programme Lead for Skills for Employment. She said: “It’s so wonderful to see so many of you learn so much in such a short space of time. I wish you all the best of luck in your future. Thanks to you, Building Heroes and our industry partners.

Bex added at the end: “Also, thank you for your service to our country.”