A father of six who overcame financial hardship and the devasting death of his wife has told how he was able to turn his life around after enrolling on a West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) funded training scheme and landing a job with HS2.

At the beginning of his construction skills training course, Geoff Carter, from Kitts Green, Birmingham, had sadly lost his wife to cancer and had even spent one stage of his life living in his car while unemployed. But through his strong work ethic and his unstinting commitment to provide for his family, he was able to make a change in his life and become an inspiration to his six children by earning the qualifications that eventually landed him a job on the HS2 high speed rail line currently being built in the West Midlands.

Now, Geoff’s perseverance in pressing ahead with his training in the face of personal tragedy has been recognised with a ‘Learning for Work’ accolade at the WMCA Adult Learning Awards. Reflecting on his journey, Geoff said: “I can proudly say that I have now gone from living in a car that I couldn’t always afford the fuel for, to being in long-term work as a skilled and qualified labourer on a fantastic project.

“When I look back to the 12 months I spent on Universal Credit, I remember constantly struggling for work until my coach at the Department for Work and Pensions recommended training courses in the area that would progress me straight into the workplace and I have not looked back since. My children have now seen living proof of what’s possible in life when given the right opportunity.”

The inaugural Adult Learning Awards ceremony was hosted by Birmingham-born actor and former Eastenders star Nicholas Bailey and was organised to showcase the positive impact of WMCA funded adult learning, skills, and training courses, and to celebrate the contribution that adult learning makes to the West Midlands.

On receiving the award, Geoff, whose training was provided by RMF Group, said: "You’ve got to take that first step, be brave, believe in yourself and know what to do when life slams a door in your face - knock on another one and just keep going. My wife, Nat, loved a poem which said in the very last line ‘when you’re hardest hit, you still never quit’ and I still live to that message to this day.”

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, was at the ceremony to congratulate the winners. Afterwards, he said: “Our Adult Learning Awards gave us a wonderful opportunity to shine a light on inspiring individuals who have overcome challenging situations to transform their lives and employment prospects.

“Geoff's story is a brilliant example of someone doing exactly that. Despite tough personal circumstances, he has turned his life around for the better - seizing the opportunity to learn new skills on WMCA funded courses, building his confidence back up and providing for his family as a qualified labourer.

“Geoff story is a testament to his resilience and to the importance of the work the WMCA does to fund a variety of courses right across our region. Together we’re creating opportunities for local people to find gainful employment - opening up new possibilities for them and their families in the months and years ahead.”

Geoff initially struggled to find work but got back on his feet after coming across the RMF Training Academy and gave special thanks to their support through his tough times. Dara McCarthy, head of social value at RMF Group, said: "Geoff has overcome devastating obstacles during his learning journey but has still earned key qualifications to gain employment in the construction sector – his CSCS Card, CPCS Certifications for Dumper Roller and Banksman, and DAMS certifications.

"Geoff persevered with his training and secured his role with the HS2 project. He has overcome immense adversity that most of the working population will never experience and has managed to stay in employment and maintain a positive outlook throughout.

“He believed he was able to make a change in his life and is proof that stable and sustainable careers can be created through the RMF Training programme." George Duggins, WMCA portfolio lead for skills and productivity and leader of Coventry City Council, added: “The WMCA Adult Learning awards were a wonderful showcase of the unsung heroes within Adult Learning throughout the region and Geoff’s story has highlighted the significance of supporting determined learners to improve their employment prospects.

“His success in the face of adversity is an inspiring message and one that should be seen as a shining example to all.” To hear Geoff’s story in his own words, visit the WMCA YouTube channel.