For Chessington and Hook Youth FC the winter blues are over since apprentices and tutors from Nescot College’s plumbing department came and fitted a new heating and hot water system in their previously freezing clubhouse last week (7th to the11th of February).
The building, which has housed the team for over 25 years, was left without heating two years ago when vandals destroyed the boilers, and the charity football club were unable to afford to replace the old system.
‘We couldn’t even claim on insurance as the premiums would have risen too high for us to afford. We were at our wits end with it. You’d come in and the water in the bottom of the loos would be frozen solid, that’s how bad it was,’ said Manager Darren Ellis.
‘When Nescot apprentices said they would come and fix things up we couldn’t believe it. We’re over the moon, it’s made all the difference in the world,’ he said.
The club,also known as The Blues, which has over 500 under sixteens and 200 senior players on various teams, was not only freezing cold, but with no access to hot water, the post-match shower was a bracing experience to say the least.
And with internal pipes bursting during every cold snap, the club was at a loss as to what to do.
‘I certainly considered giving it all up and walking away I can tell you, especially when you’re up here on Christmas morning trying to fix a burst pipe behind the bar in the freezing cold,’ said Darren.
‘With the five and six-year-olds, and the nursery teams of under-fives playing. It was terrible, I went out and bought 10 electric radiators and three gas fires to keep things bearable but we all had to put our hands in our pockets to keep them running.
‘I don’t have the words for what they have done here, the little ones can’t believe it. We can’t thank them enough,’ he said.
The Nescot team were faced with a mammoth task to overhaul the plumbing and heating over the five days on the site. In the two years since the heating had broken, the damage had been compounded by further leaks and degradation throughout the system.
With the help of Epsom plumbing supply firm Tucker French, who donated materials and equipment ranging from flues to loo seats, the team spent five days installing heating in the main club house; new toilets in the washrooms; running hot water to all basins and proper shower pressure and constant hot water to the changing room areas.
For Andy Tucker of Tucker French, the opportunity to help the struggling local club was a cause close to his heart.
‘Me and Mark French were delighted to get involved, we’re both football men and our boys play too so we jumped at the chance,’ he said ‘ We’ve got a very solid relationship with Nescot so we knew this would be something good to get on board with.
‘The casings from all the boilers had been completely destroyed and without those you’re not even allowed to fire them up. We contacted the manufacturers and managed to get the casings direct from them. I’m so pleased we could help the club, it’s been a pleasure,’ he added.
For Nescot staff the experience, while challenging, offered many learning opportunities for the apprentices.
For Steve Harris, Senior Tutor at Nescot’s Gas Academy, which runs industry qualifications for trade professionals, the opportunity to take the apprentices out in the field was well worth the two days spent fixing leaks in the roof space of the clubhouse.
‘It was good to get back on the tools again, running a site, showing the apprentices a bit of site humour,’ he said.
‘Although I’m sure lofts are getting a lot smaller than I remember!’
And for Tony Rees, Head of the Gas Academy, the experience proved so positive that he is keen to make this an annual event.
‘This was a large team effort by apprentices and lecturers, who ran the site as a workplace so the students were able to get assignments signed off as part of their course.
‘I want to thank everybody who took part, and, hopefully this can become a regular event where all the apprentice areas combine once a year to make a real difference to a local community project,’ he said.
A free one-day trade qualification course at the Academy was also donated to the hardest working apprentice on site, second-year gas apprentice Aaron Lings.
Nescot College’s good links in the community and relationships with local employers were given special mention in a recent Ofsted report which found that,
‘The college has developed its provision well to meet the needs and interests of
students and employers. Productive partnerships with employers and community groups have supported the development of new provision, including a broader range of apprenticeships.’
Nescot offers apprenticeships ranging from Childcare and Hairdressing to Construction and Plumbing. Find out more about Apprenticeships at Nescot.