A Lancashire man has landed himself a job on a construction site next to his house all because he was taking his three children – aged eight, four and two – to school every morning.
James Hawkes, 27, from Colne, had not worked for over three years since leaving his job because of a mental health condition. But after a couple of weeks exchanging pleasantries with site manager Hugh Sneddon, the two men got chatting, and one thing led to another.
On hearing about Hawkes’ employment status – and his willingness to work – Sneddon checked with his boss, Mark Harris, and a job offer was forthcoming.
Former sandblaster Hawkes is now working for family-owned construction firm Clement Dickens on the Bright Street site where the company is building 10 supported housing bungalows.
“I’d watched this guy for a couple of weeks, leaving the house at 8.30am every day to take his kids to school and then just pottering about his garden,” Sneddon said. “He seemed like a lovely, conscientious sort of bloke and so I decided to ask my bosses if we could take him on. They trusted my judgement and let me offer him a Living Wage position.
“We are building bungalows for the charity Making Space, which will provide supported living for people living with learning disabilities, mental health conditions or physical disabilities, as well as older people. It seemed really fitting that James, who is himself living with a mental health condition, has joined the construction team.
“He has been working with us for six weeks now, has fitted in really well and is a good, hard worker. I am pleased to say that the unusual decision made by me and my contracts manager Mark was not wrong.”
Hawkes added: “I had to give it up my last job because of my mental health. I am much better now and was going to start looking to return to work next year. But when I got chatting to Hugh and he mentioned I could work next door on the site, I jumped at the chance. My partner Naomi was shocked at first that I went out on the school run and returned with a job, but now she’s really pleased.”
Hawkes is working towards his CSCS card, which proves he is safe to work on a building site. He plans to continue with all the training he can access and become a skilled labourer.
“I never thought about this kind of work,” he added, “because everyone in my family works in a factory. But I’m really enjoying it and all the physical exercise means I’ve even lost some weight.”
It was no twist of fate that site boss Sneddon was prepared to take a chance on a stranger; maybe it could be said he was paying things forward.
“I’m 59 now,” he said, “but 33 years ago, a site manager stuck his neck out for me and within two years, I was running my own site. It’s only right I help someone else now I am in a position to do so. Everyone needs a break.”
Ross Dickens, managing director of Clement Dickens, said: “When Hugh told me he had a potential new recruit, I was more than willing to offer James an opportunity. As a company, we understand the importance of investing in the future of our industry and take on apprentices across the trades.”
The Bright Street project is delivering the 10 one-bedroom bungalows for adult health and social care charity, Making Space. The properties will feature fully fitted kitchens and modern, accessible wetrooms. They’ll also have private gardens with levelled access for wheelchair users. They are due for completion in May 2020.
Main Image: Hugh Sneddon, site manager, Clement Dickens (left) with new recruit James Hawkes.