Construction and maintenance apprentices in Derby put their skills to good use by giving a church and community centre a huge facelift, writes Paul Offord.

Brownies, Cubs, Girl Guides and a parent and toddler group are just a handful of the regular users of an East Midlands community centre and church who are benefiting from the hard work of local apprentices.

An Asian over 60s group, plus taekwondo learners and members of an exercise class have also seen first-hand the transformation of Sinfin Moor Church and Community Centre, in Derby, which is used by more than 700 worshippers every week.

Built in 1975, it had become badly rundown and church-goers were struggling to find the funds for a much-needed revamp.

So, in stepped Derby Homes with its 20 apprentices, aged from 16 to 27, who are all at level two and three and who do their training with Derby College.

Level two building maintenance apprentice Nigel Duffus, aged 20, said: “It was such a big place that I wondered how we would get it all done in time when I first saw it.

“But it gave me lots of satisfaction as we gradually did it all. All the apprentices worked really hard and I think we made a good team.”

In just five days they pulled out the church’s old kitchen and fitted new appliances, as well as connecting gas and water to the new cooker and sink.

They fitted new double-glazed windows and completely repainted the whole of the inside of the church and connected community centre.

The team also installed damp-proofing, air vents, new doors and re-plastered the former vestry room, which was converted into a storage room for a large lawnmower.

Level two and three construction and maintenance learners from the Royal School for the Deaf Derby also helped out along with other staff from Derby Homes and local building and decorating firms.

Church treasurer Stewart Ian Sant said: “We desperately needed to upgrade the kitchen facilities and redecorate the main hall and approached Derby Homes to see if they could help. The apprentices have done a fantastic job.”

Construction lecturer Bill Bentley, who worked as site manager, said: “Sometimes it is harder to replicate work in a college workshop than it is to do it in the real world.

“We decided to look for a worthwhile cause that would allow them to demonstrate all the skills they have learned and the church was perfect.”

“We are really proud of our apprentices,” said Annabelle Barwick, apprenticeships manager at Derby Homes.

“And we wanted to say — ‘look they’ve been with us eight months now and look what they can do’.”

Mrs Barwick estimated they saved the church £25,000 on the cost of labour and building materials, which were donated by local firms.

She said: “It is a huge, huge building. The people at the church were also really bowled over by the work our apprentices did and they can feel very proud of themselves.”

Cap: Derby Homes apprentices and staff at Sinfin Moor Church and Community Centre