Sunderland College student Jamie Lee-Keighley believes studying brickwork ‘saved his life’ and has dedicated a recent competition win to his late grandfather.
Falling in with the wrong crowd, the teenager was spiralling out of control, struggling with anger issues and substance misuse. Pushing those closest to him away and causing rifts in his family, he was expelled from school at 15.
A turning point came when his grandfather, Gordon, died earlier this year. Devastated by the loss, Jamie vowed to get his life back on track.
“I was angry at everyone, smoking my problems away and pitting my nana and grandad against each other,” he says. “I had just turned 15 and got kicked out of school for fighting. I was heading down the wrong path.
“My grandad always saw something in me, and he never stopped trying. All I’ve ever wanted to do was make him proud. He was a good man and I wanted to be like him.”
After speaking to a friend who had completed a bricklaying course at the College, Jamie enrolled on a Level 2 Diploma at City Campus.
He adds: “One of my friends studied here and said the college and lecturers were superb. My grandad always used to say bricklaying is an excellent trade and he was right. The feeling of accomplishment when you finish a wall or doing different things every day is amazing.”
Finding an outlet and learning new skills, Jamie’s hard work and talent impressed lecturer Jimmy Stobbart who helped the teenager gain an apprenticeship with local company Rippon Construction while he continues his studies at college.
“Jimmy has inspired me the most at college,” he continues. “He said I had talent and pushed me to be the best bricklayer and student I could and can be.
“You can see the lecturers care for you and want you to succeed. The atmosphere at college is amazing, totally different to school. We have a laugh but work hard and learn a lot.”
Along with his classmates, Jamie recently competed in a pressure test as part of the WorldSkills Educator Programme, a high-quality coaching and mentoring initiative which Jimmy is part of. The competition, the first of its kind at City Campus, saw apprentices and students build a structure within six hours which simulated site conditions and gave them an insight into the standard of work required at the highest level.
After assessing the completed work, the judges named Jamie the winner and he immediately dedicated the achievement to his grandad. He will now head to the regional Skill Build competition in June, which showcases the very best in upcoming UK construction talent.
He adds: “This competition means a lot to me, so I knew in my heart that I had to win, not just for me but for my grandad too who has always supported me.
“Bricklaying has saved my life. It has changed me and made me want a better future than drugs and fighting. It really helped me figure out who I am.
“Studying at Sunderland College helped me realise my ambitions and want to become the best bricklayer in the North East. I would definitely recommend the college and would say to anyone thinking of coming here to keep your head down, concentrate on your work and yourself, give 110% in whatever course you do, always be on time and push yourself.”
In 2020, Sunderland College was selected to join the skills revolution as part of the WorldSkills UK Centre of Excellence trial, a radical new approach to delivering high technical skills which benefits young people across Wearside and beyond.
Launched in partnership with education and skills charity NCFE, the Centre of Excellence will mainstream world-class standards in technical development and champion a skills-led recovery.
Education Partnership North East Chief Executive, Ellen Thinnesen, said: “Jamie winning the WorldSkills competition is a massive achievement for him, and it’s thanks to the life-changing work of our curriculum team.
“Engaging our students in experiences through competition work such as WorldSkills, builds confidence, develops industry standard competencies, enhances the continued development of our technical specialists and strengthens our relationships with industry.
“Raising aspirations for our students, it was a privilege for me to witness the value and difference this experience has created.”
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People across the Northeast are set to benefit from a share of more than £200 million to transform skills training in key industries.
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Our achievement rates are well above the national average.
We are the College of the Year.
(*Top college nationally for BTECs, Pearson 2019)
100% of our HND and HNC students progressed to employment or further study.
(*Destination data, academic year 2016/17, HNC 19+)
We have recently invested £50 million in our facilities.