From drugs to decorating: Chalk Farm apprentice turns life around on pioneering training course
07:00 13 August 2014
Arrested twice for drug possession after leaving school aged 16, Jack Closier had given up all hopes for a successful career.
Two years on, the Chalk Farm youngster is climbing up through the ranks as an apprentice painter and decorator - all thanks to an innovative training scheme.
The 18-year-old said he has “changed for the better” since he signed up for a vocational “pre-apprenticeship” course at K&M McLoughlin Training, in Holloway, Islington, which offers youngsters a tempting alternative to college or university.
The pioneering institute opened to much fanfare in 2012, and prepares 16 to 19-year-olds so they are ready for work on a building site during a whirlwind five-week course.
Jack, who left Haverstock School in 2012, dreamed of becoming a professional footballer and played for the Under-16s team at Premiership club Tottenham Hotspurs.
But an ankle injury left him in crutches for eight months and dashed his hopes of footballing stardom.
“I just gave up at that time,” Jack told the Ham&High. “That’s when I started meeting the wrong people and doing the wrong things.
“I got nicked for drugs, for cannabis and a bit of cocaine. There was nothing better to do.”
Jack, who lives with his mum in Ferdinand Street, resolved to turn his life around when he realised that his actions were taking a toll on his mum, who was worried about her son’s safety.
On a friend’s recommendation, he signed up to the five-week course at K&M McLoughlin Training, run by Islington-based firm K&M McLoughlin Decorating, in April last year.
Just one week after completing his training, he landed an apprenticeship with firm E Poole & Co, which covers most of the capital.
“I got myself on the right path,” said Jack. “I just had enough of bumming around, and I wanted to do the right thing.
“I was stressing my mum out, and she doesn’t need that. It has definitely changed me for the better.”
Three out of four students find apprenticeships or employment after finishing the training, according to the decorating firm’s partner, City and Islington College, in Holloway.
Jack is adamant that schools should do more to highlight alternative opportunities for pupils who are unsure about taking a traditional academic route into their chosen career.
“I had no clue about apprenticeships at school – I thought it was either college or university,” he said. “They need to show more options.
“For me, it was really enjoyable because I’m a hands-on person and I don’t like to sit down at a desk.”
Last year, K&M McLoughlin Decorating won a Lord Mayor’s Dragon Award for the firm’s pre-apprenticeship vocational training scheme.
The awards are given out annually by the City of London Corporation to recognise outstanding corporate responsibility.
For more information about the courses, visit kmdecorating.co.uk/index.