ERR students are ground force of UK's recovery, says Tommy Walsh when presenting ERR students with their NVQs

Newly-qualified Engineering Real Results construction students were told by celebrity builder Tommy Walsh that they are the ground force of UK's financial recovery.

Speaking at the Derby headquarters of Bpec, the Government-approved assessor for work-based training, where students were receiving NVQs, Tommy said: “The Government’s commitment to house building is good, but plans to construct up to 200,000 new homes will be threatened if we don't address skill shortages in the construction industry. There is definitely a skills shortage in the UK and not enough homes, we need to fast-track people through training and get them into work, that's what the people here today have been working at. Well done.

My granddad used to make breeze blocks out of cinders and my dad became a builder … I learned about how to follow up opportunities off both of them and I'm proud to say since then I’ve gone on to make thousands of television programmes, appeared in a film and even written books.

George Osborne recently expressed fears over skills shortages as he announced an infrastructure programme aimed at guaranteeing work for more than 150,000 construction workers. He said that more than 200 infrastructure projects are due to be completed in 2014-15, and another 200 projects are due to be started over the same period.

Tommy said the students - who were trained at Engineering Real Results in Wolverhampton for the UK's largest building college ATL Practical Training - were ready to do their bit after passing their NVQs in heating and plumbing.

Engjell Shala, aged 41, from Uplands Park Road, Enfield, Rehman Almed. aged 29, from Clockview Crescent, London, David Belton, aged 42, from Park Road, Treorchy, South Wales, James Mitchell aged 24, from Leedham Avenue, Tamworth, and Mark Hoyer, aged 43, from Stewards Lane, Ely, Cambridgeshire, see their NVQs as emblems of their new trade.

Engjell said:

It was great to receive my certificate from Tommy, I've always been a fan of his since the Ground Force days on the BBC – it was him who gave me a real interest in the building trade, so to meet him was wonderful and he offered me a lot of encouragement, particularly over my son David.

He tells it like it is and said to me it was down to myself how successful I could be.

I've always been in the building trade and I've found it an interesting way of life – good mates, hard work and a lot of fun. Tommy was one of those people who made it fascinating to the general public. Tommy is a real hero of mine.

Engjell got the chance to chat with the celebrity handyman about the personal circumstances that dictated a change in direction in his work life. Engjell has a 14 year old son who is autistic and he wants to spend more time with him.

Engjell said:

David is a wonderful son but he can be quite demanding and likes to spend a lot of time with me … I decided to take up heating and plumbing so that I could work for myself allowing me to dictate the hours I work. It will really benefit us all.

Tommy , aged 57, said:

I have a lot of sympathy with Engjell, it can be very difficult to keep things on the right track when you have major considerations like this at home. But in this business you make your own luck and with the kind of attitude he's showing Engjell should aim to build a good new life for himself. It is an exciting time in the construction industry.

There is definitely a skills shortage at the moment and the industry needs more qualified people, to put it simply there are not enough homes being built in the UK and this is driving house prices up.

What we are witnessing today is the success of a new fast-track system which trains people wanting to go into building, gets them qualified and helps them find work.

Tommy comes from a family which has faced a lot of hardship through illness – including his own recent battle against breast cancer which knocked him for six.

He said:

I'm fine now but men should check for signs of breast cancer. It's a different world in the building trade now - I never thought a man could get breast cancer until I had my surgery.

He is now championing a campaign by Breast Cancer Care, which is selling pink electric drills to pay for research.

A spokesman for ATL Practical Training (Trained by ERR), the UK's largest construction college, said:

It's brilliant that Tommy Walsh came along to give out the prizes and we're glad Engjell met up with him. They both have strong stories to tell and have made something positive out of traumatic circumstances. All our students attending the presentation ceremony have done really well and we wish them all the best for the future.

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