Student Success Stories


Meet Lola

Lola, 16, didn’t have the best start in life and lives as a “looked after” young person in residential care. Despite the challenges she faced, she hasn’t let anything deter her from chasing her dreams and after spells in several schools, she has now found her forte gaining experience working with a tree surgery company in between studying for her City and Guilds construction qualifications at Preston Vocational Centre.

We caught up with Lola while she was in the middle of building a wall at the Preston-based centre and asked her about her experiences; in particular, what it’s like to be a young woman in what is traditionally seen as a male-dominated profession.

She laughed off the stereotype, saying:

Preston Vocation student Lola brick laying “I’m better than the boys anyway. Boys mess around. I set myself high standards and enjoy all the trades we learn. You just have to be a bit fiery and give as good as you get. They soon stop! The tutors call me The Enforcer!

“I’m pretty handy at all the trades – electrical work, plumbing, bricklaying, plastering and painting and decorating and really enjoy coming to PVC. As well as the practical learning, I’m also studying Maths and English GSCE with Hawthorn Education.  I’m in my second year at PVC now, so already have health and safety, joinery, and plumbing certificates. The tutors are all really good and supportive."

Lola comes to PVC on Wednesdays and Thursdays, always making sure she has that all important brew before she looks at the board to see what she’s learning that day! When not at PVC, Lola is busy chipping wood and cutting branches with MR Tree Surgery and also works in a shop over the weekends.

What final piece of advice would Lola give other girls thinking of getting into construction?

“At first you might think you’re not as strong as you are, but you’ll learn that. Be yourself, you’ll be just fine.”

Meet Morgan

Morgan goes to college in Moor Park where she is studying Maths and English.

She felt bored with traditional classroom lessons and felt she needed something she could really get stuck into, something that would excite her. After speaking with her teachers, they suggested she took a look at Preston Vocational Centre who deliver a range of construction training and work with young people and adults from several schools and community groups across the region.

At first Morgan said she was nervous about coming:

Preston Vocation student Morgan building a brick wall “I thought I’d be the only girl there, so my teacher suggested I went for a taster day, and I loved it straight away. I was relieved to see there were other girls at the centre too and I also met a boy who had started on that day too and we’ve become good friends since then.

“You look at the board on the wall when you get here and see what you’re doing that day – it could be bricklaying in the morning and plastering in the afternoon for example. You get half an hour for lunch and it’s a great atmosphere in the centre. They really support you, not just teaching you construction skills, but in generally listening and helping if you’re not having a great day.

“It’s much better for me than sixth-form – you learn while having fun. My friends think it’s cool what I do here. I’ve already learned loads, plumbing, joinery – I’ve installed radiators, fitted a bathroom, made boxes and windowsills. The teachers are great, everyone gets individual help and it’s good to be able to go at your own pace. We have to do online learning as well like health and safety and understanding all the different tools, but you can just work steadily on that and ask questions when you’re not sure. It means I am not panicking with deadlines, so suits me. It will be great to get my City and Guilds qualifications”

Would she recommend it to other girls thinking of coming?

“Definitely! I thought I’d be the only girl, but I’m not. I’ve made real friends here and I actually want to get up in the mornings to go to PVC. You’ll definitely be better than the boys! Give it a go.”

Meet Callum

Callum outside of Preston Vocational Centre

Why did you choose PVC?

Previously I had been on the Prince's Trust Programme and I was looking for something to do after it, as I had done my work experience at PVC. I spoke to the team about attending PVC on the ESIF programme and enrolled.

What have you learned at PVC?

I have learned:

  • bricklaying
  • plastering
  • painting and decorating
  • plumbing
  • building maintainace 
  • carpentry
  • joinery and
  • health and safety.

PVC has helped me to develop my skills and to help me get a job.

How has PVC affected your life?

PVC has helped improve my  chances of gaining a job and gave me a good reference. PVC has also given me ambition to achieve a job in my chosen trade. I have also worked on my communication skills and my time-keeping skills.

What are your next career steps?

I now have a job within the roofing trade which I aim to start soon.

Meet Owen

Owen outside of Preston Vocational Centre

Why did you choose PVC?

I didn’t fit in the school environment and I have always had an interest in construction. I  came for a look around the centre and had a taster of different trades.

I really enjoyed my taster session and I then knew I wanted to pursue a career in construction, in particular bricklaying and plastering.  

What have you learned at PVC?

When I leave PVC I will have accomplished my BTEC level 1 Diploma in construction. The Diploma includes bricklaying, plastering, painting and decorating, joinery, plumbing, carpentry, health and safety, manual handing and building maintenance.

Whilst at PVC I undertook bricklaying work experience at J.Townley which gave me the chance to have an experience of real life work, it was freezing on the coldest day of the year.

How has PVC affected your life?

PVC has taught me valuable life and work skills that will help me in the future. The construction skills will help me to get a job of my choice in bricklaying. It has also taught me life skills like time keeping.

What are your next career steps?

I am looking forward to getting a nice apprenticeship in bricklaying, and owning my own bricklaying firm.

Meet Luke and Gabe

Luke and Gabe onsite with CCH Joinery Luke and Gabe – Apprentices at CCH Joinery 



Luke attended the Pre-Apprenticeship course at Preston Vocational Centre and achieved his BTEC Level 1 Extended Certificate in Construction. During his time on the course, Luke proved himself to be hard working, worked well in a team and had an exceptional skill level in all trade areas. He excelled in Carpentry and Joinery and I was so pleased when he was offered an Apprenticeship with CCH Joinery as he fully deserved the opportunity. Luke has been back to see me and said he is really enjoying the work he is doing. 



Gabe came to PVC one day a week on the Building Skills programme for two years as part of his options on his school timetable at Our lady’s High School. Gabe achieved his BTEC Level 1 Certificate in Construction and also won the Award for best student in Carpentry and Joinery. Gabe was a role model student who worked hard and was highly regarded by the team at PVC. 

I would like to thank CCH Joinery for giving our students the opportunity to gain an apprenticeship and also for all the additional support they give them to ensure they get the best experience possible. CCH Joinery, also donated over £200 in sponsorship to enable us to buy boots for our students. We can’t thank them enough for all their support.

Meet Jack

Jack Stileman On the back of another award for Preston Vocational Centre (PVC), we spoke to one of its students to get their thoughts on why they think the centre continues to grow and how it is helping to change the lives of local young people. 

Can you tell us a little about yourself? 

My name is Jack. I am 17-years old and from Chorley. I am currently studying for a B-TEC Level 1 in Construction at PVC. 

Why did you choose PVC? 

Like many others, I am not the most academic of people. After leaving school I didn’t really have a real idea about what to do next. I heard about PVC through a family member, thought it sounded interesting and went along to see what it was about. The rest is history! 

How have you found it so far? 

I’ve really enjoyed it. The learning is very hands-on, which makes it easy to stay interested. From plastering to bricklaying and decorating, no two days are ever the same. The teachers and staff are another big reason why I’ve enjoyed it. They treat everyone as equals, and are always respectful. This has created a great environment for everyone to learn in. 

What will you take away from your time at PVC? 

Well my B-TEC of course! But I’ve learnt lots of things, including how important hard work and doing something you enjoy are. I’ve become interested in plastering and have recently been staying behind after class to help plaster the PVC building as a way of giving something back. 

What do your family think about you being at PVC? 

They are proud. They say I have become much more positive after finding something I enjoy doing. They also say they are much less worried about my future prospects now. 

So what’s next? 

I think for the first time I am optimistic about the future. I graduate in the summer and then hope to start an apprenticeship at a local building company. After that, who knows, I may look at starting my own plastering business.