Bouncing back into a career in construction

In this latest blog, we talk to Phil Wheelband who tells us about Bounce Back’s support in helping him pursue a career in the construction industry on his release from prison.

I’ve been in my current role as a Health, Safety, Sustainability and Quality (HSSQ) Advisor with The Carey Group for almost a year now and I love my job.

I’ve worked in the trades since I was 17 but didn’t have any formal qualifications. I used to live in Hong Kong and all my experience was gained there. I loved working in construction but with no proof of experience or qualifications it would have been hard to find work when I was released.

When I was given the opportunity to train with Bounce Back at Wandsworth Prison, I jumped at it. Bounce Back is an amazing programme that allows you to learn a skilled trade and gain a qualification. There are not many places that offer those kinds of training opportunities. That’s why I encouraged others to do the course too, because I could see how it would benefit them.

I completed a Level 2 Diploma in Dry Lining with Bounce Back. The training centre at Wandsworth has cubicles set up where you are taught to build a wall, install a ceiling, frame the corners properly, put in a window and door frame. You can learn to dry line, tape joints, plaster and decorate amongst other things.

We wouldn’t be able to learn the trade without the materials provided by Knauf and its distribution partner Encon Insulation & Nevill Long. We also recycled as much of it as we could so it could be used again.

Part of the course looked at health and safety and I found that interesting. I was keen to get into more of a managerial role, rather than site labour, so I talked it over with Suzanne from Bounce Back. She suggested doing a National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH) course which I passed with flying colours while in custody. I also got my Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card. It’s all down to Suzanne’s support.

Suzanne was also instrumental in helping me find my current role. She approached one of Bounce Back’s partners, The BDL Group, about employment opportunities and put me in touch with one of their directors. On my release I had a face-to-face meeting with him. I was then offered a contract to work as an HSSQ Advisor with The Carey Group, a family-owned construction business operating across the UK and Ireland.

I love working in construction. One of the things I enjoy about being on site is the camaraderie of working as part of a team. My role involves interacting with the labour force on site and making sure that they’re working safely.

I’m also constantly assessing and reviewing our ways of working. I investigate new ideas, products and methods to find safer ways of carrying out tasks. Investigation is another part of the job. In the event of a near miss or an accident I investigate why it happened, what protection measures were in place and what could be done to make it safer and prevent it from happening again in the future.

I really feel like I’m making a difference. I’m continuing to develop my career too and am currently studying for an NCRQ Level 6.

Without Bounce Back I don’t know if I would have gone back into construction. I certainly would have found it more difficult to find a job and without doubt I wouldn’t be doing the job I enjoy so much now.

For anyone else being offered the opportunity to train with Bounce Back I’d tell them to go for it. Work with Bounce Back to get that trade, it’s a skill you can take anywhere with you. Once you’re qualified you can earn good money and you’ll never be short of work again.

Bounce Back is an inspirational charity that focuses on the training and employment of those whose release from prison is imminent. Knauf and Encon Insulation & Nevill Long are enthusiastic supporters of this vibrant organisation and have been working together to provide both products and technical support to the charity since 2015.