Ground Force builder helps Barking and Dagenham College students with their designs

Tommy Walsh with Compass and LDD students in the garden

Tommy Walsh with Compass and LDD students in the garden - Credit: Archant

Celebrity builder Tommy Walsh downed tools to help college students hoping to follow in his footsteps.

Tommy Walsh with Compass student Reece Gibbs

Tommy Walsh with Compass student Reece Gibbs - Credit: Archant

The Ground Force star looked over the youngsters’ designs to overhaul two neglected outdoor spaces at Barking and Dagenham College’s Rush Green campus yesterday afternoon.

He took a tour of the site and gave a speech to the budding tradesmen who are all part of the Dagenham Road college’s Compass group for those who have been excluded from mainstream schools or have learning disabilities or difficulties (LDD).

“I love to help people who are selecting a vocational career,” Tommy, 60, admitted.

“I think, particularly for people who have sort of slipped from the education net and not realised education was important until it passed them by, the fact that they have a second chance to make a life for themselves is great.”

The Compass and LDD students have already started making their designs a reality by digging, painting and creating the foundations for the areas where they plan to build bike shelters, benches and even a sheltered ping pong table.

The project has gained the backing of Costain, Jewson and Lawsons Timber but college staff are hoping to encourage more local businesses and charities to get on board.

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Tommy, whose dad used to own a building block manufacturer off the A13 in Dagenham, said: “Youngsters can make anything active again, so if we tailor it to suit their needs then they’ll look after it and hopefully get involved in the construction of it.”

Student Chianna Belsham, of Dagenham, said she was really enjoying being part of the project.

“It’s not that easy but it’s not hard and you feel very rewarded for it,” the 15-year-old said.

College principal Yvonne Kelly said: “This opportunity with Tommy Walsh provides the students with help from an expert on their employablility skills.

“It’s a great opportunity for them and we’re really grateful for his time.

“It’s provided the students with some great stories as well.”

It is hoped that the new spaces will be completed in the next year.