Solihull College & University Centre’s construction students have volunteered their time and expertise to lend their skills to a family in Shropshire who were in need of support.

The plastering students worked on set of the BBC’s long running TV programme DIY SOS: The Big Build

The Shropshire based Grafton family looked to the programme to improve their home after moving from London to Hopesay in the Shropshire Hills. Mother, Jess and father, Joe along with their daughter Lucy, aged 7, received devastating news that Jess had acute Leukaemia and Septicaemia and just 2 days after her diagnosis she unfortunately passed away, which left father Joe alone with daughter Lucy to attempt to complete their half-renovated home.

Lecturer at Solihull College & University Centre Carl Pedley approached the show offering support in any upcoming shows. Carl noticed the programme had a new build coming up and was informed that the show would require some plasterers to help with a new build.

The students at Solihull College & University Centre jumped at the opportunity to help the family and also gain some valuable work experience on a real life building site. The level 2 plastering students including Daniel Austin, Shaun Smyth, Paul Burke and David Lynch assisted the shows Julian Perryman with the plasterboard and skimming of an upstairs bedroom, hacking off old materials and boarding the living room, they also used their time to assist the other tradesman to load out and increase productivity of the job.  Julian was said to have been shocked that it was the first time some of the students had worked on-site and they conducted themselves brilliantly.

Along with the students lecturers Joe Farrell and Thomas Clarke worked tirelessly to give the students this opportunity and also to help such a deserving family. The students and staff from Solihull College’s Woodlands Campus worked hard on the build even setting off each morning at 6:00am and not returning till 18:30pm the same day, with lecturer Joe driving the 4 hours each day as well as working an 8 hour day.

After 9 days of hard work the house was completed and the Grafton family were absolutely delighted with their renovated home that they can now all enjoy spending time in as a family.

The tutors and students were invited to attend a thank you evening at the Craven Arms in Shropshire and Nick Knowles, presenter of the show, was reported to have paid tribute to Solihull College’s students and thanked them all for them all for their help.

Phil Paddock, programme manager for construction at Solihull College & University Centre commented “I am so proud that the construction department at Solihull College & University Centre has supported such wonderful project, it has provided our learners with some exceptional work and experience and we have been humbled by the experience.”

As part of their Diploma qualification the students have to carry out at least 30 hours works experience throughout the year and their work on the project can contribute to this, giving the learners the experience needed to become tradesman when they complete their course.

Student Shaun Smyth commented “Going on DIY SOS was a great experience and I was able to work with other tradesmen and see how a real site works. It was good to meet Nick and the others from the show. Joe and Lucy now have a home they can share. It is amazing how much can get done in the short space of time with everyone’s help. It is definitely something to be remembered.”

The College also donated a bike for Lucy to enjoy in her new home which both she and Dad, Joe were grateful for. With thanks to all of the volunteers and the show itself the family are now looking forward to enjoying their new home.


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