The Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Councillor Mrs Terri Beer, was among those celebrating the achievements of a group of veterans who have retrained in construction thanks to a partnership between City College Plymouth, Sherford Skills Training Centre, and Building Heroes.

The veterans were joined by College staff and local dignitaries for the Building Heroes graduation ceremony on Friday 15 October. The ceremony took place at Sherford’s revolutionary £370,000 Skills Training Centre, which was created to address the region’s skills shortage. It was funded by the Sherford Consortium – a partnership between Taylor Wimpey and Vistry Partnerships – and opened its doors in 2018. The centre has supported the training and development of hundreds of apprentices and armed service leavers, created hundreds of jobs, and enabled users to retrain and upskill across trades.

The Building Heroes course teaches construction skills to veterans, service leavers and direct family members, offering them the training they need to start new careers whilst also providing new talent to an industry that is experiencing a shortage in new workers.

Steven Ricketts, Sherford Skills Training Coordinator, said: “I would first like to congratulate all of the students who have worked extremely hard to complete their course. It is never easy to start over, especially for those whose previous careers were in the Armed Forces as it can sometimes be challenging to adjust to civilian life.

“They have all excelled in their training and shown real dedication to learning the skills that will help them start new careers. I’m pleased they are able to mark their achievements with their families as it is the first graduation ceremony we have been able to hold since the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The students – a combination of military personnel in a resettlement period and unemployed veterans – took part in the fully-funded construction skills course over five weeks, with the aim of securing future careers in construction. They received tuition and hands-on instruction in various areas of construction and safety and can now progress to a higher level of study or find employment working on construction sites.

The Lord Mayor of Plymouth, Councillor Terri Beer, said: “It was a real joy to preside over today’s celebrations and acknowledge the achievements of a group who have a genuine determination to learn new skills.

“Construction is such a vital industry for Plymouth and a pillar of resurgam; all those who complete a Building Heroes course will be essential to our city’s development and growth. I wish them all every success in the future.”

Karen Jefford, Chief Operations Officer of Building Heroes, said: “The charity’s focus has always been to support these men and women by offering them new opportunities for successful, long-term careers.

“Building Heroes is also helping to meet the local skills shortage in construction, so it is great to know we are also supporting this essential industry.”

Building Heroes first started delivering the courses at Sherford in 2019 and it was the first in the country to run on a live construction site. City College joined the partnership in 2020 when its staff took over teaching the students, in line with the College’s strategic plans for supporting the local construction industry through training new tradespeople, and also improving health and wellbeing by providing routes into fulfilling careers.

The charity reports that there are around 120,000 unemployed military veterans of working age in Britain today. Figures also reveal the UK construction industry is facing a massive skills shortage, with 217,000 new construction workers needed by 2025. With Plymouth known for its considerable military population; this is an especially appropriate place for veterans to be given a new opportunity.

For more information about Building Heroes and how to register for a Building Heroes course, please visit www.buildingheroes.org.uk.