Apprentice Richard proves age is just a number

Richard Wilson isn’t your average apprentice. At 59 years old, the Myrtle Leaf Grove customer had over 20 years experience as a joiner, yet a few years ago found himself struggling to get work. 

In a changing job market, where more employers require formal qualifications and digital know-how, Richard was being held back. As he struggled with unemployment, he was limited in the opportunities he could take as he was unable to afford travel, and eventually faced the possibility of homelessness as he was unable to pay his rent.

This is where Great Places stepped in. Employment and Skills Manager Nicolette Aydin (left) secured Richard work experience on our Union Road, Bolton site with Crudens Construction, who were impressed by Richard’s skill and professionalism. They wanted to work with him again, so Nicolette introduced him to the Shared Apprenticeship Scheme through the Chamber of Commerce, where he was able to complete an NVQ qualification while he worked with Crudens.

Richard said: “The biggest challenge was my low income. I found that it was beneficial to have my own tools on site, so I invested in my own kit which was costly. Driving to the site was also expensive and hard to juggle with other outgoings. But Great Places helped me with travel costs and evaluated my finances to make sure I could afford everything.

“Another challenge was the computer. I needed to do my maths test online as part of the course, but using a computer is a barrier for me. Luckily throughout my apprenticeship, people kindly volunteered to help me learn, and Great Places eventually helped me find a way to complete the test on paper, which made me feel much more comfortable!”

Through his apprenticeship, Richard worked across a variety of schemes in the North West with a number of different housing associations, impressing project managers at every site with his experience and ability. So much so that when Kier Living began construction on Great Places’ Radcliffe Civic scheme last year they asked if Richard was available by name. With help from Social Value Coordinator Lisa Uzudimma (right), he secured the position and was finally able to finish his NVQ with Great Places.

Mick Dunn from Kier said: “Richard’s done really well with us. Knowing his age, we did wonder what he was doing being an apprentice. However after working with him, I get it  – he still has a significant number of years left to work and he clearly has the desire and passion to do this. He is enthusiastic, always on time, willing to do more... I’m very proud of how far he has come!”

Lisa said: “Continuing the work with Richard over the last year signifies both his commitment and desire to work. It has been a pleasure to assist with his final stages of his NVQ Level 2!”

Earlier this year, Richard’s hard work was recognised when he was shortlisted for the Greater Manchester Apprentice of the Year award.

“The apprenticeship has been a great experience – I have learned so much and thoroughly enjoyed it. It has been hard on occasions, however being nominated as a finalist for Apprentice of the Year across all of Greater Manchester was just the icing on the cake. The way I see it, no pain no gain. The recognition really meant a lot.

“I will be forever in debt to Great Places for all the help they have given me. I have now finished my NVQ and look forward to rebuilding my career with this qualification under my belt!”

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