A Sheffield school’s construction skills workshop gave apprentice Jake Saunders a new interest in his education. Now he’s something of a role model for those who want to follow in his footsteps
By Northern Housing Staff
JAKE Saunders admits he was once difficult in class, but that was before he took up the tools for a budding building career. Now the 17-year-old apprentice is an inspirational role model for pupils at his former Sheffield school.
Following in his footsteps, Kaden Diver, from Shiregreen and Connor Pryor, from Parson Cross, have both developed basic building skills in Chaucer School’s innovative construction centre – which is funded by Sheffield Housing Company (SHC) – after witnessing Saunders’ progress.
Saunders first picked up his tools in the same construction skills classes and after making huge strides in his own personal and academic development, he is now a year into an apprenticeship.
Now, after honing their building techniques and improving their behaviour, attendance and their exam prospects across the whole curriculum, Diver’s and Pryor’s hard work and dedication has secured them apprenticeships of their own.
“I used to be quite disrespectful and found school really tough,” Diver said. “I just didn’t see any point in trying. Then I saw how well other students – like Jake – were doing after getting involved with the construction classes and I asked for the opportunity to give it a go.
“I knew that if I wanted to continue learning these new skills that I would have to change my behaviour and put more effort into my other lessons. I realised that it is important to be a reliable person as well as a good bricklayer if I wanted to progress with this as my chosen career.
“Now I’m doing much better at school than I ever could have imagined and I’m delighted to have secured an apprenticeship with K&K Brickwork Contractors – through City College, Sheffield. I’m hoping in a few years’ time, that I could become a site manager or maybe even set up my own business.”
Pryor added: “When I first started at Chaucer, I used to get into trouble quite a lot – mostly for talking or messing about in lessons. When I saw how well Jake had done, working in the construction skills centre and going on to secure an apprenticeship, it gave me the motivation to improve my attendance and my behaviour.
“The quality of my schoolwork has improved, and I’ve also used the classes to develop skills that have helped me to get my own apprenticeship with plastering company Jacksons Plastering – also through City College. I’d love to have my own plastering business someday.”
Steve Middleton, Chaucer School’s facilities manager, said: “Our school’s construction initiative was designed to give students who were encountering obstacles in their studies the chance to re-engage with the education system, stabilising their behaviour and helping them to develop an understanding of what it is to be successful.
“Jake’s has been just one of a number of success stories we have seen and it is fantastic that they are resonating with and inspiring other students – like Kaden and Connor – to make positive changes for their lives and futures.”
SHC is Sheffield City Council’s joint venture development company, established with private sector construction partner Keepmoat Homes and Great Places Housing Group. Its goal is to improve the level, quality and choice of housing across the city, while creating jobs, encouraging investment and supporting the communities in which it works.
Chaucer School is part of a group of schools lead and supported by Tapton School Academy Trust (TSAT). Additional funding from SHC has enabled the school to increase opportunities for students with a hair and beauty salon, horticulture centre and bicycle repair workshop.
Supporting educational and training projects is a key element of SHC’s programme to help create apprenticeship and job opportunities. The company says it is currently working on the second phase of a 25-year plan to build 2,300 new affordable homes for sale, shared ownership and rent, across the city.
To date, 700 homes have been completed, 65 apprentices employed, over 500 jobs created, and more than £80 million spent with construction sector businesses in the city region.
After impressing in school, Diver and Pryor both undertook work placements organised by Keepmoat Homes, and it was through these that they were able to showcase their talents to potential employers – K&K Brickwork Contractors and Jacksons Plastering – which offered them apprenticeships.
Saunders, now a year into his apprenticeship, added: “I am really pleased that other pupils are making the most of the opportunity the skills centre offers. It’s flattering to be now considered a role model after turning my prospects around at Chaucer School, following a difficult start to my time there.”
Main Image: (Left to right) Connor Pryor, Jake Saunders and Kaden Diver.