A NEW course in welding at Buxton & Leek College is proving a passport back into work for jobseekers of all ages.
Trainees are walking out of the college's new £1 million Skillsbase training centre on the Harpur Hill Business Park and straight into work following the three-week course thanks to the college's good links with local industry.
Course tutor Graham Cox, who has many years of experience in the trade, teaches three types of welding – MIG (Metal Inert Gas), TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) and MMA (Manual Metal Arc) – from Tuesday to Thursday at the training centre.
And those on Jobseekers Allowance have their course fees and travelling costs funded.
Mr Cox said: "Welders are in big demand locally and there seems to be quite a skills shortage. I fear that if employers don't start training more people up we are going to lose an important skill.
"The course we are running, which leads to a Level 2 ABC Award in Fabrication and Welding Practice, is mostly practical and we supply all the protective equipment needed at an industry-standard training facility.
"There are no entry requirements and we provide support for any students with learning difficulties including dyslexia.
"Only the other day I bumped into one of my recent students in the supermarket and he came up to thank me for helping him into a £500 a week job, and I've had three girls recently find work as welders after completing this course."
Among current students is Stephen Ozdemir, aged 50, from Glossop, who found himself redundant after many years working for small engineering companies.
He said: "I was referred here by the job centre and, at first, it felt a bit intimidating coming back into training at the age of 50, but the course has been really enjoyable and we have a great tutor who understands that not everyone learns at the same rate and level.
"I think welding is one of the biggest skills in demand in engineering so hope that, by the time I finish the course, I will have a new job lined up."
George Ware, aged 22, from Disley, initially followed his father into landscape gardening but realised it wasn't the career for him.
Now he's studying for an engineering degree and has enrolled on the MIG welding course with the aim of earning some money to fund his studies.
He said: "I like to work with my hands and have found the course really interesting.
"Our tutor, Graham, has all the right contacts to set us up with interviews once we finish the training."
To find out more about the welding courses on offer at Skillsbase call 0800 074 0099 or visit www.blc.ac.uk