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Trainee Testimonials

DIY to help recover from Depression...


After nearly 18 months off work suffering from depression, I was not looking forward to a return to work.  I previously worked in a management consultancy, a demanding and at times high pressure environment. Although I had tried to keep active, I had little daily routine. I therefore feared that the major change of returning to work could trigger another episode of depression. I needed something that would be a challenge, and help prepare me for a return to work.

I talked through my fears with my therapist, who recommended taking this opportunity to learn new skills. As I had always been office based but a keen DIYer, I was keen to use this opportunity to learn to use my hands and study a trade (or two!).

I looked into local training providers, but most ran evening classes or courses lasting only a few days. I felt that that would be enough of a challenge. I then remembered from my time in the Royal Navy that I still had funding available in the MOD Enhanced Learning Credit scheme. After much searching I found the ideal course – a six week Level 3 Property Development course, delivered locally at Fullagar’s Construction Skills Centre. It was an intensive course covering plumbing, floor and wall tiling and kitchen and bathroom fitting.  After being so long off work, never doing these or other trades before, and still recovering from depression, I felt nervous that this it may be too much. However these fears were unfounded as I quickly saw the benefits in the following areas which helped improve my mood and avoid depression:

Exercise and diet

This intensive course was extremely ‘hands on’. This meant I was kept very active ‘all day, every day’ through a tailored and incremental training programme.  Although the course was designed for novices, each person was able to work at their own pace. This flexible approach meant that I was able increase my activity levels gradually. By breaking each task into a number of simple steps, I was never overloaded and able to increase my self-confidence and build the motivation needed to take on the more complex activities.

Each trade had its own physical demands, using muscles that I had never used before. I learnt that rendering was not for the faint hearted! The daily tea and lunch breaks also meant that I was eating well and regularly. I had to plan meals that were healthy and gave me the energy to get me through the day. Meal times also became an enjoyable social occasion again, as was the time when everyone got together to talk about the good times in the military and, of course, crack jokes with a very dry humour...  Eating alone was not an option as I was encouraged to ‘down tools’ and join in!


During my period of depression I gradually withdrew from friends and family. Being away from work on sick leave only fuelled this isolation. However right from day one I quickly overcame this issue. Although I had previously not worked on the ‘shop floor’, I found that everyone (staff and students alike) was welcoming and pleasant company. I mixed readily especially due to the ex-military brand of humour that I missed during my time in civilian life. I learnt to take, and give, ‘banter’ again, and importantly not take comments to heart. Over the long course I grew close to many and still keep in contact. This helped me increase my levels of wellbeing, confidence and helped me seek other opportunities to socialise.


With each day ‘full to the brim’ with activity, I always returned home with my mind refreshed and relaxed as I did not have the chance to ruminate. The hands on learning meant that I was always focussing on and enjoying each moment. By keeping active all day, every day this helped relieve the stress in my muscles, relax my mind and distract me from negative thoughts and worries.  

As I was building physical things rather than office work, I was able to regularly step back and feel proud about what I had achieved in such a short time – be it a freshly plastered wall, finishing off tiling, or hanging a perfect door. Every day was full of these ‘feel good’ moments.

The tutors planned activities that were enjoyable, interesting and satisfying. At first, it did not feel pleasurable, as I was not used to working full days, but quickly I enjoyed each and every moment at the training centre, always looking forward to the next day.  This was an amazing feeling that I had not felt for years due to my depression.

Regular routine

With the course being full time, I was launched into a much needed regular routine and did not have to worry about what to do/plan for six weeks – from starting and finishing the same time, to the lunchtime chats and regular and numerous ‘tea breaks’, this all helped me plan my days and learn to stick to a healthy routine. This even meant at last getting a good night’s sleep (a key problem of mine during depression) – as I was tired at the end of the day, falling asleep much more easily and avoiding bad habits. Getting up at the same time each day also helped. The regular routine and not having to take my work and worries home with me, meant that I did not ruminate at night, but woke up refreshed and looked forward to the new skills and achievement that each day would bring.


I would whole-heartedly recommend a training course at Fullagar’s Construction Skills Centre. The course exceeded my expectations in every way, over and above the trade skills learnt- which are second to none and very advanced for the length of the course. I enjoyed the course so much that I immediately signed up for another five week Multi-trade course.  Not only did I ‘feel well’ but importantly learnt to ‘stay well’ in my future work through a number of key life changes to improve my mood and reduce the risk of future depression. By working in a sheltered learning environment before launching myself into work, where I could gradually build up my activities and I did not feel under pressure or stress, helped prepared me for a return to demanding consultancy environment. I strongly believe that this experience directly helped me fast track my recovery from depression, feeling confident enough to return to work full-time rather than a planned part-time basis. I now take my life a day at a time, with reduced worries and enjoy every moment. The many trade skills also mean that I am now a key asset to family and friends as there is not much that I cannot put my hand to! Thank you Fullagar's for such a life changing and enjoyable experience!

“I attended this course in order to progress and start my own business.   On day one I was made to feel welcome.  I chose kitchen fitting, tiling and plastering.  I now feel I have progressed to a good standard.  With excellent instruction by Mark I feel confident in starting my own business.  I would recommend Fullagar to anyone wishing to pursue a career in the construction industry.”   

Mark Rimmer, Royal Engineers

“Great place for a start into the building industry especially for ex forces , Very friendly staff.  Thanks to Mark and Andy for teaching me bricklaying and rendering Maurice for some tips and tricks and chris for the food! .Elcas Approved Course helped me bag a interview for a apprenticeship (combat to construction , Many thanks for teaching me bricklaying and rendering, Maurice for some tips and tricks and Chris for the food!  ELCAS Approved Course helped me bag an interview for an apprenticeship (Combat to Construction).  Many Thanks!”

Chris Smith, Army Air Corp

“I feel the course was well layed out and each of the subjects I undertook was instructed by a very skilled, confident and competent instructor.  The whole of the skills centre works well, from the instructors stepping in for each other when required without a disruption to the learners, to not having to go out of the building for food.  Having everything under one roof is a bonus.  I feel that having an ex-military instructor helps no en when talking about the building trade, ie converting civilian speak into military slang we understood.”   

Derek Miller, Royal Navy

“I would like to thank Maurice and his team for a very enjoyable 6 weeks of kitchen fitting.  I found the course to be comprehensive and adaptable allowing students of varying abilities to progress and produce work to a very good standard.  Nothing seemed to be too much trouble and the advice received will provide sound foundations for future projects.  Once again thanks, and all the very best for the future.”  

Kevin Jones, Royal Navy

“I started the course on 24 March 14 with Fullagar Construction Skills Centre in St Helens.  The module covers tiling, plastering and plumbing on completion a level 3 certificate is awarded.  The centre provides all the tools required and the facilities are excellent, providing the ideal learning environment.  The instructors are fully qualified, subject matter experts in their respective fields and techniques are taught at speed to suit each individual students need, as a student with very little knowledge of DIY, I found this very useful.  The staff at the centre are extremely knowledgeable, helpful and take time and care to ensure students learn all aspects of their particular course in order to reach their full potential.”   

Billy Stott, Royal Artillery, MBE