Acorn's Construction Success Stories
Construction Sector Success Stories

Ashleigh didn’t have the best start in life. He fell into the wrong crowd, suffered a series of family tragedies and was stuck in a cycle of drug misuse and offending. A destructive pattern that led to him almost losing his life in a knife attack. Before Acorn got him a job as a General Operative on Willmott Dixon’s Taff Vale site, he’d been out of work for seven months.

‘‘Meeting my girlfriend and the birth of my baby girl marked a turning point for me. Thanks to them I was finally ready to stick to the School Of Hard Knocks programme and accept all the help Acorn had to offer. They improved our interview techniques, helped write our CVs and even shopped for suits with us. The sport side of the programme taught us the power of team work and communication.

I stopped bothering with my old mates, got a flat and a job sorted, I’m out of the gutter and ready to climb the ladder. I’m learning new skills all the time, thanks to Willmott I finished a Cherry Picker course and training to use mobile access equipment. My goal is to get on a slingers course and see my wages go up. I never thought I’d have a goal like that, at one point managing to get by and stay out of trouble was the best I thought life could get.

When you’ve got no structure, no routine, your life can get out of hand. Joining The School of Hard Knocks and having Acorn’s support gave me stability and a something to strive for, without that guidance, I’m not sure how I’d have managed.’’


- Ashleigh, Merthyr. General Operative at Willmott Dixon

Construction Sector Success Stories

Life changed quickly for Shermayne after the birth of her daughter. Within a few months her marriage had broken down and she couldn’t go back to work like she’d planned.

A former lab technician for an opticians, Shermayne worried she would struggle to find work after taking time out. When her daughter was three years old she was introduced to Communities for Work and began to plan her route back to employment.

Thanks to Acorn’s partnerships with voluntary programmes such as this, we were contacted about Shermayne’s search for work and invited her to one of our ‘Women in Construction’ events. This series of events within South Wales set out to encourage more women to enter construction, bringing together local employers and jobseekers to discuss fully-funded training opportunities and vacancies within the region.

‘‘I went along to Acorn’s event in Cardiff and started my new job within the week! After being out of work for so long I couldn’t believe how quickly they got me this opportunity. My marriage meant I’d put off pursuing a job in construction, but I made a decision to be true to myself, and I haven’t looked back.’’

Shermayne has since been a full-time Gateswoman for five months.

‘‘They want me here until the end of the project and I’m chuffed. No day is the same and I couldn’t work with a better bunch of people. We work hard and have a lot of fun, but most importantly, they understand my daughter comes first. They know I’m doing things on my own and couldn’t be more supportive. I start at 8.30 every morning and can even make the school run!

I would say to any woman thinking of a job in construction, just go for it.’’ 


- Shermayne, Aberdare. Gateswoman at Willmott Dixon

Construction Sector Success Stories

Following a spell of ill-health, Alex was let go from her job. After three years spent with the firm, she was at a loss as to what she’d do next.  Alex’s brother had recently got his CSCS card through the Inspire2Work initiative, a programme run by Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council to provide support for young people aged 16 – 25 who are not in education, employment or training. With his encouragement she decided to join the programme too.

‘‘The more I learnt about construction, the more I wanted to join the industry. Acorn stepped in to get me interview ready - the course finished on Friday, and on Wednesday I walked into my first job as Welfare Attendant! The mentoring I was given helped me to make important decisions and I’m enjoying a better quality of life. I now have the funds to run a car, which gives me the freedom to spend more time with friends and family instead of feeling isolated. I’ve made lots of friends and love working on the site – especially when the weather is good!’’

Alex began her role with Willmott Dixon in August last year and will be with the Taff Vale project until it is completed in March 2020.


– Alex, Aberdare. Welfare Attendant at Willmott Dixon

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