The construction team behind the new Centre for Student Life for Cardiff University is helping to rehabilitate a prisoner serving a five-year jail term for drugs offences.
Craig Taylor, 37, from Builth Wells, has been taken on as one of four gatemen at the massive £35 million scheme in the very heart of Cardiff.
BAM Construction, the contractor now creating its third successive multi-million pound scheme for the University, takes Craig on from early each morning, until he returns to incarceration later the same day at Usk Prison.
Christian Parton, BAM Construction’s Project Manager, said the company took Mr Taylor on through the recruitment firm Acorn, and he is proving a big success.
“I don’t mind saying that I was a bit sceptical at first, but Craig is demonstrably intelligent and works on his own initiative. He’s proven the company right to take him on, works hard, and is desperately keen to re-establish himself when his sentence has expired.
“Being a gateman is a point of contact with the public, and this is a high impact site, with four gates in a heavily populated area. It’s not an easy scheme either, putting it mildly because of the congested logistics and operating next to a live railway.”
Craig is now just four months from the end of a 5-year and four months sentence for growing and distributing cannabis.
“I am counting down the days until I’m free again. This opportunity helps in many ways. I get paid for it – half goes to victim support and the other half is available when I am released.
“I never want to go back inside because what I have missed is my family growing up. I have three daughters and a son, aged between 10 and 14, and they are victims of my being here. I’ve not seen them for two years.
“Working here also helps me to socialise with people properly again. The BAM guys have treated me no differently to anybody else and been very fair and helpful. The scheme is so helpful and I’m glad I found it.”
It is not the only act of social conscience that the contractor has revealed. Adam Cox, BAM’s Education and Community Co-ordinator, added:
“We are creating a one-year industrial placement here later, and have taken on a woman who found it hard to get back into work after maternity leave. We’ve got a programme of assistance for the University’s students – for example, the geology students will be able to study how our piling is being conducted.”
But it is the prison reform initiative that is the real breakthrough for the company.
“This is a pilot for us. We want to widen it to some of our other schemes.”
BAM is behind a forthcoming scheme in Port Talbot, and Brecon High School. Over the previous five years it has completed Cardiff University’s CUBRIC building, for brain imaging work, and its Hadyn Ellis building.
Project manager Christian Parton says that although it is early days at the moment, the public will see this scheme begin to take shape quickly.
“We have two tower cranes to erect by the end of May, and then progress will be more visible to our neighbours.”
Over 2000 people are expected to work on the scheme over its duration, including many firms from within Wales.