‘I was in a bad place for years’: Construction course credited as catalyst for change

Dublin Construction Skills Programme: Graduates explain how they are turning their lives around

Karl Bowes from Coolock had been out of work for two years when he got on to the Dublin Construction Skills Programme based at Dublin Port.

“When you’re not working you’re hanging around all day meeting other people who are hanging around. It is a bad cycle,” says the 34-year-old. He did the retrofitting module seven months ago and has been working for an insulation company since, earning €20 an hour and working each day, 7.30am-4.30pm.

“It changed my life,” he says. “Before that it was a nightmare trying to get a job.”

Although he genuinely wanted to work, he says that having got caught up in addiction, crime and ultimately homelessness, he struggled to turn things around.


"I was looking everywhere for a job but the only skill I had was labouring." Because he had been in prison, there were "gaps" in his CV which didn't help when looking for work. "There are only so many times you can say you went to England, " he jokes.

Drug free for 2½ years, he got the break he needed when he heard about the course and achieved “tickets” or certificates confirming he was qualified in a range of construction industry skills such as driving machinery and insulation work. He is delighted his younger brother recently started the course which he credits with being the catalyst for the huge changes is his life.

“The job gives me something to look forward to. I have money. I am able to afford to buy nice things. I can go on holidays.”

To get to his most recent job on time he had to be on a bus at 6am and says the work is hard “but no one is going to give you €20 an hour if it’s not”.

Keith Royal had also been through drug treatment when he signed up for the course.

“I was in a bad place for many years. Something had to change so I got treatment,” he says. He has a young son “who was in and out of my life” before he tackled the addiction. “I got clean and we have an amazing relationship now.”

When he started to get his life together he contacted Garry Desmond at the St Andrew's Resource Centre in Dublin's inner city who pointed him in the direction of the course and he was soon working for a sub-contractor on the O'Devaney Gardens regeneration project.

“The course was a great experience. There was no judgment,” he says. “Life has turned around 100 per cent. For me it was all about getting back to work.”

He now works installing sprinkler systems in new apartment buildings. “It is a very new trade and I am absolutely flat out.”

Having lived in hostels he is apartment hunting. “I am going to view one today that is €1,350 a month.”

Not too long ago the 35-year-old says he could see no way out. “It had got to a point where I was spiritually bankrupt. Something had to change. The course changed everything.”

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh

Marese McDonagh, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports from the northwest of Ireland