Military veterans struggling to cope after leaving the forces are being given new hope with the help of Chichester College.
The charity Building Heroes launched its foundation property maintenance course yesterday at the Brinsbury Campus, where the first batch of veterans spoke about what it means to them.
The training course is designed to provide a broad range of skills suitable for a career in property maintenance. It is open to all military veterans but it is hoped it will particularly help those aged 25 to 40.
Brendan Williams, chief executive of the charity, which launched in 2014, explained: “The younger guys can go into an apprenticeship. The older guys are prefect to become a handy man because they have a full service pension and a lot of the skills already.
“The bloke in the middle, the 25 to 40-year-old, may be married with children and leaving the forces, they need a proper, full-time wage.
“We are trying to create a new pathway, with accelerated learning, to enable them to get into the building trade. Our big challenge is progression and we have a number of networks in the business to help them into work.”
The link up with Chichester College, which will deliver the five-week residential course to eight to 12 people every six weeks, has been an important one.
Andy Green, deputy principal, said: “Our mission is changing lives through learning but our passion is about getting young people or adults into the world of work.
“We work with about 3,000 employers and with those connections, that gives us a great opportunity to make sure these guys have that fantastic opportunity to progress.
“Our values fit really well with this charity and that is why I think it works so well. It is the perfect partnership.”
Long term, the charity wants to replicate this model to help hundreds of veterans across the country.
Ian Belcher from west London is the oldest of the veterans, described as the ‘pioneers’, who started the inaugural course on Monday.
At 49, he has had two periods of service in the Army. After 13 years as a reserve and in the Territorial Army, with two operational roles, he left the Army but struggled to cope so when he was offered the chance to go back as a reserve in 2007, he signed up for another four years.
When he came out again six years ago, he was suffering from combat stress and found life outside the Army difficult.
“You don’t get any support when you come out of the army. You are on civvy street and you have got to find your own way. If you are single, it can be pretty daunting, you haven’t got that crutch to lean on.
“I found it difficult to adjust. I was angry and resentful,” he said. “I have had years of dealing with trauma and PTSD but treatment has helped me a lot.
“This course is something that is going to help veterans in the right progression to work.
“I am hoping it will give me the basic knowledge to take into a small business in home maintenance. Already, doing the plumbing has made me think I could take it to the next level.”
Keeping fit is important to the veterans and Mr Belcher said he was grateful that Billingshurst Leisure Centre has allowed them to use its gym while they are on the course.
“It is very kind of them. The lads are using it every night.”
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