Edinburgh school marks 15 years of training trades – Scottish Construction Now

The team at Trades Training School
Since opening its doors at Edinburgh’s Peffermill Industrial Estate in 2007, Trades Training School has trained over 3,000 students and helped launch over 1,000 businesses, as well as providing work placements for people aged 15-70 years old.
The school offers training courses and qualifications in plumbing, plastering and tiling to everyone from complete beginners wanting to retrain for a new career, to people already in the industry looking for advanced qualifications. They also provide business start-up training and after-course support to students who decide to start their own business.
The company’s initial goal was to become Scotland’s first independent training centre offering nationally-recognised tiling qualifications to adult learners, filling a gap in the market. Its founding ethos was to provide technically-advanced training of the highest quality to help people launching new careers, including those leaving the armed forces.
Now employing 10 staff, Trades Training School quickly expanded its course offerings to include plastering and plumbing and are planning to expand on more advanced courses for experienced tradespeople and bespoke training for established trades businesses. The school currently offers courses ranging in duration from 1 week to 6 months incorporating SQA Professional Development Awards, City & Guilds Diplomas as well as NVQ/SVQ vocational qualifications.
One of the key elements of the school’s success is business training and technical support offered both during and after the course that ensures every student is given the best chance to move on to a career in their chosen sector, or to start their own business.
Managing director Antony O’Neil and director of business development Gillian Martin
Owner, and director of business development, Gillian Martin said: “What I love most, is seeing students transition into their new careers, feeling confident and empowered. Over the years we’ve built up a fantastic community and our after-course support is something we’re proud of. We often receive messages from students, sometimes months or years after they leave, thanking us for helping them change their lives.”
As well as looking after the futures of its students, Trades Training School is committed to investing in its staff. Managing director Antony O’Neil explained: “Our team has grown in number, but we remain close-knit as I am passionate about making the school a great place to work.”
All of the school’s instructors continue to work in their trade as well as teaching, giving them flexibility and keeping the team’s knowledge current. In July this year, one of Trades Training School’s tiling instructors, Matty McHale, competed in boxing at The Commonwealth Games.
Antony and Matty had met at a local boxing gym in 2016 which culminated in Antony offering Matty his first job, training him to be a tiling instructor. Matty still works at the school, teaching and inspiring the students.
Antony commented: “I want to make sure my staff feel secure enough to be able to pursue other activities, and we will always support them in that. This approach is part of our success with retaining staff and bringing fresh perspectives to our teaching.”
Shannon Brown, who completed the Tiling Diploma this year
Shannon Brown (27) from Edinburgh, took the Tiling Diploma Level 2 course earlier this year after leaving a job as a mobile engineer. Shannon’s dream is to move to Australia, and she wanted to launch a career that would allow her to do that.
After gaining her City & Guilds in May, Shannon now has full-time employment as a tiler with McTear Contracts working from their Edinburgh site renovating council properties. She’s tiling kitchens and bathrooms, gaining the experience she needs to complete her NVQ.
Shannon said: “This course has taken me 10 steps closer to my dream, I couldn’t have asked to get more from the course. My instructors Antony, Matty and Immy were great, and I also benefit from ongoing support from Antony, which has been both helpful and reassuring.”
Peter Shaw left the army and retrained as a plumber
Peter Shaw (37) spent sixteen and a half years in the British forces as a bagpiper for the Royal Highland Fusiliers before realising he needed to retrain to support his young family. In May this year, he embarked on a 2-week tiling course, followed by the Plumbing Diploma at Trades Training School.
Peter loved the building aspect of the courses on offer, but wasn’t sure which course to take. He enjoyed the tiling course so much that he decided to take the longer plumbing course as well. Peter’s father and his uncles were also plumbers, so he decided to give it a shot.
Peter now works full time for Edinburgh Council as a plumber maintaining and installing bathrooms and kitchens, as well as helping with any major repairs that are needed.
Peter said: “These courses changed my life and have given me massive sense of achievement. They pushed me to get on with work in my own home and helped me find employment. I learned to price jobs up correctly and the people skills to manage clients. As a result, I have landed a job for life with a good salary and work ethic. I’m also part of Trades Training School’s students’ support group where I can access help and advice, and show off my skills!”
Stephen King, one of the school’s first students
Stephen King (56) from Livingston was one of Trades Training School’s earliest students, embarking on the Wall & Floor Tiling Course in 2008 after he took early redundancy from his job as area manager for a vending machine company. Despite spending 14 years in management, he was looking for a new career and after speaking to a friend who was a tiler, he decided to retrain. He returned to the school in 2015 to gain his SVQ qualification.
Today, Stephen owns his own successful tiling business that undertakes domestic, commercial and industrial work, including every specialist area of tiling. He operates mainly in the central belt but has worked all over the UK. Occasionally Stephen returns to the school to teach and act as a mentor; taking students out with him for work experience and providing advice in the students’ support group.
Stephen said: “The course gave me a new path and outlook in life, as well as the stability of a new career. I’ve loved the freedom of being my own boss—I can be myself and have had more time to spend with family. I really enjoy maintaining my connections with the school and helping others invest in themselves and move forward.”
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