Scaling the heights to paint the unreachable crevices of a bridge or dangling hundreds of metres from a high-rise tower, might not sound like everyone’s cup of tea.
But for three Redcar and Cleveland College students it is proving the dream job.
They were among a group of unemployed learners who took part in the college’s innovative new Routeway to Rope and Painting Industry course in partnership with Total Solutions Ltd.
Matthew Hazelwood, Damian Robinson and Ryan Hogbin, have all come away with work from the Teesside-based rope access specialists.
“I absolutely love it,” said Matthew, who has spent the last two weeks painting bridges in Keswick. “I can’t wait to start doing more.”
After years working as a printer in a printing factory, it is a bit of a step change for the 35-year-old from Redcar. But fortunately, having previously done a charity skydive, he knew he had a good head for heights.
The three-week course, which was funded by the Tees Valley mayor and combined authority’s adult education budget, was created to equip people with the skills to help meet the job roles developments such as Teesworks are bringing to the Tees Valley.
Working alongside Jobcentre Plus and Redcar and Cleveland Council’s Grangetown and Skinningrove hubs, it covered a host of accredited new skills including IRATA Rope Access, ECITB Working at Heights, Rigging and Slinging, ECITB Site Safety Passport, asbestos awareness, as well as key employability skills.
But making it stand out from other courses of its kind was the practical sessions. Taught on the college’s new industrial training rig, learners completed the TRACC course, which combines the skills of rope access and trade skills, proving they can complete the work in a real environment at various heights.
Graeme Wood, Redcar and Cleveland College’s group head of commercial development, said: “It is one thing being up there but you then need to be able to do the job at hand. The course aims to not just give students the knowledge but also the practical skills that employers are looking for.”
It proved just the job for Damian Robinson. Offered work with Total Solutions, the 37-year-old from Skelton has already been putting his skills into practice, working on site at the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre in Manchester.
“I have always been interested in working at heights,” he said.
“I used to do roofing work and then went on to do some industrial cleaning. When this rope access course came up, I thought what a fantastic opportunity and I jumped at it.”
Of getting that first call into work he said: “It was more exciting than anything. I couldn’t wait to get started. This is the industry that I wanted to be in. Now I hope to get more qualified and see what the future holds.”
For Ryan Hogbin, a job offer as a storeman with Total Solutions will see him help look after the ropes and safety equipment, travelling around the country to various work sites.
He said: “I wasn’t expecting the company delivering the training to offer me a job. It was an awesome course.”
Finding himself out of work during the lockdown, Ryan had previously spent 10 years working for social services and more recently worked as a stockperson on a turkey farm.
He said: “My long-term plan for a few years has been to save up and put myself through courses similar to this, but I never managed to do it. It is ridiculous how perfect this course was for me and how it has all worked out.”
Rob Storey, director and partner at Total Training, said: “We are delighted with our strategic partnership with Redcar and Cleveland College, as working closely with them, industry and other strategic partners, ensures training programme outcomes benefit learners, employers, support the regional skills strategy, and helps create jobs.”
Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen said: “My plan for jobs is about creating good quality, well paid local jobs for local people across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool, and for this to work, we need to be able to equip local people with the skills they need to be able to access these jobs.
“Total Solutions and Redcar and Cleveland College are doing a brilliant job ensuring our young people have got the skills and qualifications they need so, even in these tough times, they can take the first step on their road to a successful career, putting money in their back pocket for themselves and their families.”