Television Star Visits Hodgkinson Brickwork Academy at Derby College

Television star Nick Knowles has visited Construction students at the Hodgkinson Brickwork Academy at Derby College’s Ilkeston campus to thank them for their involvement in the recent BBC DIY SOS Big Build project.

A group of nine students joined Ian Hodgkinson from Hodgkinson Builders in Derby for the recent televised project which renovated a street of houses in Manchester for former services personnel.

Mr Knowles was working on a new project nearby and visited the students to thank them and see them in action at the College.

He said: “The military Big Build was something amazing.  It gave ex-service personnel a real chance to get on with their lives. They were particularly moved by how much the people in this country, and particularly the trades people who worked on the job free of charge, cared about them.

“Everyone involved, including the students on the Academy did a brilliant job and I am very impressed with the work they are doing here at College.”

Mr Knowles worked in construction part time whilst he was playing rugby and then moved into journalism.  He has worked on television for many years and said that DIY SOS was a great way of helping people in local communities and showing the construction industry in a positive light.

“We are able to show what the construction industry is capable of and how many great people there are working in these trades.

“The best advice I would give to these students is that there is huge potential for them to move into a well-paid career in construction, providing they are prepared to work hard and take a real pride in their work.”

Mr Hodgkinson continued: “We are very grateful that Nick took the time to come to the College to meet all the students on the Hodgkinson Brickwork Academy.

“Nick is an inspiration to young bricklayers and was very appreciative of the work we all did for the Manchester project.

“I was particularly pleased that he highlighted that having a good attitude and taking a pride in work is so important both at work and in life generally as that is something that I am always looking out for when taking on apprentices.

“Everyone involved in the DIY SOS job did a brilliant job and we are now planning further projects and work experience for all the students involved in the Academy.”

Among the students involved in the project was Callum Wheeldon and Sam Rose.

Callum (16) from Chellaston (pictured right) said: “I reckon we were the youngest people on site and got involved in all sorts of jobs from bricklaying outside walls to labouring for some of the other construction workers on site.

“There were hundreds of people involved in the project but it was all really organised and everyone mucked in together.

“This was the best thing I have ever done and I am really pleased that I have joined the Hodgkinson Brickwork Academy to get the chance to work on site.”

Sam (16) from Ilkeston (pictured left) added: “As well as seeing Princes William and Harry, we met a lot of the ex-servicemen who will live in the houses and it was amazing to hear some of their stories.

“It was long days – getting up early to go up to Manchester and coming home late over the two weeks but it is really worth it.

 “We have lots of other work experience lined up under the Academy and my aim is to get an apprenticeship at the end of my course at College.”

Hodgkinson Brickwork Academy is run by Hodgkinson Builders in partnership with Derby College.  It is part of the College’s Employer Academy programme, linking with local employers, which is designed to boost students’ employability skills and job prospects.  It also gives employers the opportunity to shape the College curriculum and reduce their costs for recruiting young people into job and apprenticeship roles after their College course.

As well as learning practical brickwork skills and theory studies, students benefit from individual support and mentoring from Mr Hodgkinson and his team, master classes, practical work experience and a guaranteed interview with the company at the completion of their one or two year course.

For more information about the Hodgkinson Brickwork Academy and the Employer Academy programme also currently available to students in Business, Construction, IT, Health and Social Care, Catering and Hospitality, Sport and Engineering, Tel: 0800 028 0289 or visit

Please visit the Derby College You Tube channel for a video of Nick Knowles talking to the students 

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