A FORMER apprentice who went on tour with Great Britain’s American football team and spent six years in the army says his successes have been down to the skills he learned as a young man.
Graham Belcher, 43, toured the USA and lived for four years in New Zealand before returning to the construction industry in Hampshire.
As National Apprenticeship Week comes to an end, he is urging young people to take up apprenticeships, and for more businesses to offer them.
Graham’s apprenticeship started when he joined Bryant Homes as an apprentice in 1987 while on block release from Basingstoke College.
‘The apprenticeship was hard at first – working in all weather, coming home and your fingers are split and you can’t pick up your knife and fork,’ he said.
‘But it toughened me up and when I joined the army I found it easy.
‘Then I emigrated to New Zealand as they were short of skilled bricklayers, and worked there for four years, on earthquake-resistant buildings. It was fantastic.’
Now, Graham works for national contractor BAM Construction as senior site manager at Park Community School in Middle Park Way, Havant.
‘The apprenticeship has given me a rich tapestry of life,’ he said.
‘I was working on the atrium and labs of the LMB in Cambridge and I wondered, “how have I got here?”.
‘Then I realised it was because I had worked hard, kept my head down and done the right things – and most importantly listened to my peers.
‘It all started with the apprenticeship all those years ago.’
BAM subcontractor Arnold Brickwork recently gave 18-year-old C
iaran Morris an apprenticeship role on the Park Community School scheme.
Graham is urging young people and businesses to have patience with each other to reap the benefits of training up young people.
‘Kids today want everything immediately, and I have to keep telling them that it’s hard, that it takes a long time to do an apprenticeship, but that when they finish it will be there for life,’ he says.
‘But I also think we have to have patience with the kids because things are different now.
‘An apprenticeship is a social stepping stone as well as a career move.
‘It helps them learn how to interact with older people and that is a valuable lesson. You see people mature.’
BAM is also working on and nearing completion of the community hub in Somers Town.