I founded Trade Skills 4U with the sole intention of giving adults a chance of a ‘two bite life’. I’ve had a ‘two bite life’ and unless you’re lucky most of us will experience the same. My first bite started at 18 years old, I became a cop, served most of the next 22 years in the Met in London in the world respected Special Ops Dept 19 responsible in the main for counter-terrorism. By the time I’d reached my early 40’s I was at the top of my game, respected, highly skilled and athlete fit, life was good.

Then as John Lennon famously and prophetically said, “Life’s what happens when you’re busy making plans”. In 2001 I got a brain tumour diagnosis, a big boys illness that required a big boys operation. I barely survived, left hospital in a wheelchair, couldn’t walk, barely see, three quarters deaf, one day jumping through windows, fighting bad guys, the next day, “Completely Fxxked!”.

The worse part was my mind, I was in a very dark place mentally, 42 years old, two teenage kids, mortgage and no viable means of support, staring out the window watching the world go by. But as happens if your lucky, a mate, in my case a former team mate, Yorkie, dug me out of it, looked after me, encouraged me to get fit, he knew it would force my mind to get fit and it did.

As I recovered, my attentions turned to earning a living, so I looked to retrain, there’s not a lot of call for a weapons and tactics expert in civvy street, I needed a clean break, but to my surprise and disappointment, there was nothing, literally nothing for someone like me, with virtually no qualifications, no employment opportunities, I was unemployable in both skills set and mind set.

So “Fxxk It”, I thought and decided to set up a training school for adults to improve their employment chances, quite small scale at first, I only had a few thousand quid from my pension lump sum, it was a roll of the dice moment, a last chance gamble with all I had. All I intended was to earn a modest living, that’s it, I’m not into self-enrichment, it doesn’t interest me, never has.

I had one mission, be genuine, do your best by people and it will be successful. As we moved into electrics in 2006, I noted that for adults there were no viable training programs that took into account the reality of a adult with responsibilities.

Qualifications are designed for youths, assuming learners have no transferable skills, no maturity of judgment, no previous work experience and importantly they assume that a learner has no commitments financially or family, bar him or herself and probably have a bank of mum and dad. With adults it’s different, they have bills, kids, wives, husbands, mortgages and they need to fit retraining around a low paid work life and can’t afford to spend years getting there. Also and importantly adults have lots of other skills to bring to the table, that enables us to design more focused training programs, most adults who come to us for retraining come with some electrical knowledge pre-loaded, they are rarely electrical virgins, some of it is valid, some mistaken, some bad practice, but they come full of good stuff also like commitment, good core values, wanting to do the right thing, keen as mustard. We give correct knowledge, ensure proper practice, dispel myths and discourage lazy bad habits they’ve picked up from others.

Some uninformed residing in industry bodies look at us from the outside and criticise what we do, I invite them to come over and see us, they’d be surprised at our attitude and commitment to excellence and our focus on our learners needs, our reputation is superb amongst experienced contractors that use us.

We believe that an apprenticeship is an excellent way to learn electrical skills and we fully support those providers who focus on this route. You won’t hear us saying negative things about apprenticeships, but we continue will stand up for the adult learner and continue to offer alternative routes which are a better fit for many changing careers. Frankly the qualification bodies and industry bodies need to get their heads around how to better design qualifications for adults, it’s no use trying to set obstacles in their way it’s even more critical now, particularly after Brexit.

For us, we make no apology for giving adults a second bit at life, its why we exist, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Carl Bennett