A father of two from Byker has swapped jobs preparing food in the kitchen for working on the tools outside in gardening and landscaping.
For the last twelve years, Craig Patten, 28, had been working as a chef but, due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, found himself redundant in July last year.
Craig, who lives with his partner and two young children, aged 4 and 7, on the Byker Estate in Newcastle, knew he needed to find another job to support the family, and on seeing an advert for apprenticeships that were available to Karbon Homes and Byker Community Trust (BCT) customers only, he jumped to reply.
Craig was successful in securing one of the grounds maintenance apprentices, based at Karbon’s Newburn office and working on Karbon’s estates and communities across North Durham, improving and maintaining including general environmental improvements such as grass cutting, hedge trimming, path edging, weed removal and litter picking but also grounds maintenance and inspection of play areas and other communal facilities.
Alongside his two-year apprenticeship, he will study one day a week for his Level 2 in Horticulture and Soft Landscaping at East Durham College.
He said: “I cannot believe it, it’s a dream job for me. Ever since school, all I’ve ever wanted to do is work outdoors so this job is perfect for me, and I get to study at the same time and gain a qualification.
“When I was made redundant last year, I felt my whole life crumble around me, but they say things happen for a reason and if you told me this time last year that I would have a change of career and be working outdoors, I wouldn’t have believed you.
“I think it’s great that Karbon has created these apprenticeship opportunities for customers like myself – it shows they really care about their customers and go above and beyond just providing a roof over somebody’s head.
“Now I am working for the organisation, you see it from a totally different perspective. When we are working in an area to keep it clean and tidy, we want to do the best job possible and make it look nice and welcoming. I want the same for where I live, to make me and my family feel good.”
Like all the other apprenticeship applicants, Craig had support from Karbon’s Foundations for Life team, a free service which helps customers develop their employability and digital skills, to help them get into work, progress their careers or simply develop new skills.
Craig worked with employment adviser, Graeme Walsh, who supported him with his application and interview skills.
He said: “This really helped me. I hadn’t been active in the job market for over twelve years so this was a real bonus. This was the first job I applied for and I feel so lucky to have secured one of these positions. Graeme was so helpful and he talked me through my application and I think the prep work really benefitted me. I don’t think it would have went so well if I hadn’t received the help from him.”
Graeme said: “I had an initial chat with Craig about the role and explained exactly what the reality of the day-to-day job looked like. We talked about his career goals and his genuine enthusiasm for the position really shone through, so we worked together to match his previous experience and transferrable skills to this role. It’s important to remember that you don’t always have to have direct experience to be a good candidate for a job.
“Whilst I helped him to put together and submit his application from an IT/PC perspective, Craig was able to answer all the questions with confidence. I am delighted he’s secured one of the positions and wish him every success.”
Karbon Homes and BCT have been successfully working in partnership together since July 2016. Karbon has been supporting BCT with services including grounds maintenance and the Board’s of both organisations are currently looking at extending the partnership by formally joining together to form a single organisation.