Birmingham career changer becomes housing developer Lovell’s oldest apprentice

6th, March

The former painter and decorator is learning his new trade working on a £19 million, 166-home development in Perry Common which Midlands-based Lovell is building for Birmingham City Council’s house-building arm, Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust.

He and fellow Lovell apprentice 18-year-old Jake Rafter – who was recruited at the same time and is also based on the Perry Common scheme – are sharing their experiences and helping Lovell promote construction careers during National Apprenticeship Week (6 to 10 March).

After spending much of his working life as a painter and decorator, father-of-three Paul – who also has four grandchildren – originally thought he was too old to switch career: “I started my bricklaying course at South & City College in 2015 because I wanted to build a garage at home, although it was also something that I’d always been interested in.

“Then my tutor told me that Lovell were coming into College looking for apprentices and suggested I applied. When they chose me I was really surprised, I’ve found a new vocation.” Paul is working towards his NVQ Level 2 bricklaying qualification gaining experience on site as part of the Perry Common team while continuing to attend College on a day-release basis.

He says: “My age is in no way a problem, even though some of the people I work with are the same age as my 18-year-old daughter. I work with guys who are in the second or third year of their apprenticeships and they’ve been great, showing me how to do things and giving me advice. I’m a ‘young’ 51-year-old and I think that helps.

“Lovell have been very supportive. Dave Jones, my Lovell training mentor is always checking in with me and seeing how things are going and if I need any help.  My partner Donna is also 100 per cent behind me, although I don’t think she believed me when I said I was going back to college!

“I wish I’d done it 30 years ago. I love every single aspect of the work. When a job is finished, I look back at the walls I’ve built and it is so satisfying. It’s a really good feeling.”

Paul’s colleague Jake Rafter was also recruited through South & City College and is attending College on day release. Apprentice carpenter Jake says: “This is a great opportunity for me to get the experience I need to gain my NVQ qualification and earn money at the same time. I love being on site, it’s sociable but you’re here to graft and I like that. It’s similar to College but there’s a different sort of pressure when you’re on site. Lovell have been fantastic, they’ve given me tools and are looking after me well.

“When I was at college, I’d spent about a year looking for an apprenticeship and had even been trying to get a start in other trades but my heart was in carpentry so I feel I’ve been very lucky. I’ve just had a baby with my girlfriend and I now feel I’m on a real career path. I’d like to continue working with Lovell and then, perhaps in my 20s, look at going self-employed.”

Lovell regional training advisor Kelly Truman says: “They’re at very different stages in their lives and careers, but what Paul and Jake share – and why we wanted them working with us – are the right attitude and eagerness to learn.

“There’s no upper age limit for apprentices, and with Paul, his personality, enthusiasm and desire shone through. He clearly has a passion for the industry.  Similarly Jake really impressed us with his positive outlook and focus on building a career in the industry. We knew he would make an excellent addition to our team at Perry Common. We’re excited to be helping them both progress their careers with us. As construction workloads grow, it’s crucial that we keep attracting and training talented people into the industry to ensure we have the capable workforce we need.” Training organisation CITB estimates 14,000 new construction jobs will be created in the West Midlands over the next five years.