Course colleagues form their own business after their plumbing coursePrison Officer, Louise Barraclough hung up the keys of her day job to retrain as a plumber after following the dream of being her own boss.
Louise, 41, from Maidstone, Kent had always enjoyed renovating properties and the seed was planted in her head to retrain when she was given an extremely high quote from a plumber for fitting a new bathroom.
She explained: “I thought to myself that with the right tools and a bit of tuition I knew that I could do the job myself, and that’s when I seriously thought about retraining.
“I’d been a prison officer for five years and I wasn’t enjoying it anymore, so it seemed a great way forward. I wanted to be my own boss and to be in control of my day, rather than taking orders from someone else all the time.
“My colleagues thought I was being rash but when I told them I could earn way above my salary and be my own boss they could see it wasn’t such a mad idea.
A friend told me about the Plumbing Academy so I used some of my savings, booked on the course and took the plunge – it was the best thing I ever did.“
Louise said that she feels it’s a real advantage being a woman in what is still predominately a man’s job; “I think some men don’t know what to think of me when I turn up, but when they see I can do the job as well as any man, I think they respect me for that.
“There is very little heavy lifting these days. I am quite fit and strong and I know I have the same strength as many plumbers out there.
“I get a lot of work from other women – especially women on their own. They feel a lot more comfortable with a woman in the house than a man they don’t know.”
She added: “I think as women we often pay more attention to the detail of a job and many customers really like that.”
Louise has set up her own business – Water Wenches - covering the Maidstone area, with another former student of the Plumbing Academy.
Redundancy was not the end but just the beginningDad of one, Simon Watson was so devastated when he lost his job as a printer that the strain nearly led to him losing his relationship with his fiancé.
Simon, 43, from Bexhleigh Heath, Kent, said that his fiancé Francesca, 27, was pregnant at the time he was made redundant and the news put a lot of pressure on their relationship.
He said: “I had been in my job for 15 years and I suppose I thought it would just go on forever. I can’t say I enjoyed it but I was quite set in my ways and it was all I knew. When we were all called in one afternoon to be told the firm was shutting down and we were all out of a job I was totally gutted. I phoned Francesca and she just burst into tears. She was pregnant with Lily-Sophia and we had our wedding all planned and then suddenly we didn’t know how we would pay the bills.”
He added: “I am quite a strong character but the mixture of emotions I felt was very intense. I was fearful for the future, angry with the firm for not giving us some warning about losing our jobs and worried about how we would survive without my wage.”
Simon said immediately afterwards he worked alongside a carpenter for a few months before he decided what to do next. He was told by the tradesmen he was working with that plumbing was a solid career choice and that plumbers were in demand in many areas of the UK.
He said: “I found the Plumbing Academy through looking on the Internet and I used my redundancy payout to finance the tuition.
“The course was brilliant. I had no doubts right from the beginning that I had done the right thing. I did think that I would be in a class of school leavers but the class was a mixture of ages.”
Simon finished his plumbing course and is now working alongside another plumber to gain experience.
He said: “Ultimately I do want to branch out on my own but I want to get some experience under my belt first to I know I will be able to do whatever comes my way in the future.”
Simon said that with hindsight his redundancy was probably the best thing to happen to him and he feels he has a second chance in his life.
“I totally love my job now. My wife keeps telling me not to keep going on about it as it’s getting boring, but it is a wonderful feeling to enjoy your job – I’ve haven’t had one day where I thought I didn’t want to go into work.”
He added: “You do have to be very strong when you have lost your job as it rocks every area of your life. Don’t dwell on it, just look at what you can do and do it.”
Gordon Isaacs becomes his own bossDiscovering he was going to be a father was the news that prompted Gordon Isaacs to retrain for a new career in plumbing and to undertake one of Plumbing Academy’s plumbing courses.
Gordon, 42, of River Close, East Farleigh, Maidstone, has spent years living abroad and doing a variety of jobs such as bricklaying and driveway paving, but as soon as he discovered his wife was pregnant with their daughter Olivya, now 16 months, he decided to go back to college and learn a trade.
He said: “I am a great example of how it’s never too late to change the course of your life. I’ve enjoyed all sorts of different jobs while I was living in Tokyo and Singapore but I’ve discovered there is nothing like having a solid trade under your belt.
Gordon decided he would like to be a plumber after helping out friends that were renovating their own houses. He explained: “I have always been handy and have helped friends fit radiators and do different minor plumbing jobs. I really enjoyed it, so that’s what got me thinking I could do it as a full time career.
Gordon, who is married to Nicole, 43, a bank worker, used his savings to book onto a plumbing course at The Plumbing Academy also explained how it was hard work at first going back to the classroom after such a long break.
“I was the oldest one in the class and it was a bit of culture shock having to get my books out and study at night, but it was the best move I’ve ever made.”
He now plans to complete his NVQ 2 and then return to the Plumbing Academy to get his gas certificate to service boilers.
“I am now a partner in a business called Medway Plumber and I couldn’t love my job more. I love getting up in the morning as I like the camaraderie of working alongside other tradesmen. I am a real perfectionist so nothing makes me happier than doing a good job.
To top it all, my wife is really proud of me. She’s Australian and if we ever decide to live in Australia I know I will be able to forge a good career there too.”
Light at the End of the Tunnel after Facing RedundancyPlumbing Merchant Keith Ashcroft found himself on the other side of the counter soon after he was made redundant.
Keith, 41, from Eastbourne, East Sussex, said that finding himself out of work for the first time ever plunged him into depression, as it was such an unexpected shock.
He said: “I had been behind the counter for years and thought I had a secure job for life, but what I have leant is that nothing is secure.
“I was completely floored to be told I was being made redundant, but when I began to think more clearly I thought that it would be a good move for me to retrain to be a plumber as I already knew quite a lot about it already.
“I got pointed in the direction of the Plumbing Academy, and it didn’t take me long to make the decision to book onto the course.”
Keith, who is married to Caroline, 41, and has two teenage children – Nelly, 13, and Rio, 15, said that being made redundant was definitely a blessing in disguise.
He said: “The plumbing course was great and I was in a class of only eight and about half of them were retrainers like me. The tutors were brilliant and didn’t treat us like students at all.”
He obtained his domestic plumbing certificate and an NVQ Level 2 and is now working for Kiwi Plumbing and Heating, in Eastbourne, gaining moreg experience in the plumbing industry.
He said: “I know I will be earning way over the salary of my old job at the plumbing merchants. In a few years I will have my own business and the sky is the limit really – I know there’s plenty of work out there and people are always going to need good plumbers.
He added: “My day is just so different now. I am out and about in a different place every day meeting people from all walks of life, whereas before I was stuck in an office with no windows – I’m definitely not complaining!”