Since opening seven and a half years ago, Preston Vocational Centre, or PVC as it’s known locally, has welcomed more than 5,500 teenagers through its doors.
Founded in 2009, PVC was created to provide 14-19 year olds and adults in Lancashire with an environment to gain construction-based vocational skills to equip them with better
prospects for their future; whether this be an apprenticeship, employment or further education.
The initiative was developed in partnership with several parties including Preston City Council, Lancashire County Council and Preston’s College. In 2013 it became a subsidiary of Community Gateway Association.
The centre offers training across a variety of vocations including joinery, brickwork, plastering and painting and decorating to adults and behaviourally-challenged school pupils.
Andrew Melling, one of the centre’s instructors, admits to having been similarly ‘disengaged with the school environment’
He says: “This kind of scheme is something that a school-aged me would have benefitted from massively.”
Despite his differences with the school system Andrew went on to become a fully-qualified plasterer after a three-year Apprenticeship.
Following this he ran his own business and joined the centre three years ago after completing his teaching qualification.
Centre manager, Martin Grayston says it is a job the whole team finds rewarding.
He says: “Students can often have physical disabilities, moderate learning difficulties or behavioural issues.
“Despite these challenges the team works hard to provide every one with an excellent teaching and mentoring experience and dedicated support.”
The facility employs just eight people, three of which joined the organisation from the Eric Wright Learning Foundation, proof that quality rather than quantity can go a long way in an
Investors in People Gold-accredited business.
He also adds that this can be one of the most rewarding areas of his job.
Martin adds: “When I see the change from the first day a student walks in, with no self-esteem, low confidence and no practical skills, to a year later when they have gained not
only practical skills, but life skills and plenty of confidence, there’s no better job satisfaction.”
Martin, who has been with the centre since it opened, emphasises that although they are teaching vocational skills, they also work hard to ensure that all students understand the
importance of manners, respect and the benefits of team work.
“I enjoy the day-to-day aspects of this job whether that’s mentoring students, providing learning support or actually putting my brick laying qualifications into practice.”
Not only does he enjoy working in a challenging environment, he also likes a physical challenge having in the past climbed Everest and raising £60,000 for charity.
As well as working with local schools to help pupils gain vocational qualifications the centre has several ties with community services such as Preston’s Youth Offending Team, Young People’s Services, the Red Cross, Lancashire Police and the Armed Forces.
Students also work on community projects alongside their mentors such as refurbishing buildings for ‘Dig In’, a Military Support Network. They have recently worked with local sculptor, Peter Hodgkinson, to construct a statue in honour of Her Majesty the Queen being Britain’s longest reigning monarch.