The Duke of Cambridge yesterday spent time in Nottinghamshire, as he opened the National Skills and Safety Park for Tarmac, before spending time with former addicts, and homeless people. Prince William joked he had to show son Prince George that he had been on a digger as he practised resurfacing a ‘pavement’.
The future King first headed to Tarmac’s new skills centre, to meet the company’s young apprentices and learn more about their roles and career ambitions.
William was greeted by local dignitaries at the National Skills and Safety Park in Nottinghamshire to mark the official opening of the centre.
The Duke of Cambridge heard about Tarmac’s 150 year-long expertise in road building. Learning more about a conveyor entrapment machine, which simulates how powerful the mechanisms at a real quarry are if something goes wrong, the Duke asked: “You want me to cause an incident? I’ve never been ask to do that before.”
At another stop of his tour, the royal visitor was shown an interactive video game called “Saving Steve”, which helps trainees learn about safety scenarios and how to prevent accidents and illness. This included boots cleaning, avoiding alcohol if handling equipment and hygiene.
Fictional Steve – who was driving heavy machinery – had done plenty wrong! “He’s drunk?” William laughed.
He also asked: “Are there things you do about mental health as well?”
With a positive answer, he replied: “That’s fantastic.”
He was then asked to don a high-visibility jacket and safety boots as he headed outside; there he met with those training and the trainees of the site, who hope to pursue careers in the industry. Inevitably, the Duke was asked if he wanted to try out the machinery!
With a wry smile, the Royal jumped aboard a quarrying excavator simulators, after seeing a demonstration. “Yes,” William agreed, putting on a helmet and glasses, “I need something to show George I’ve been on a digger!”
He was directed on how to use the equipment, calling it ‘quite addictive’ after getting the hang of moving the vehicle, and scooping up matter.
Chris Hill, the man in charge of showing the Duke the ropes, said he did “really well” after having a “brief outline of what I would tell the lads normally”.
“He was good,” said Mr Hill. “He used to fly helicopters though didn’t he, so I’m sure his hand-eye coordination is pretty good.
“We got him on a corner which is quite difficult to do, and he coped very well.”
Hill then joked with the press that a manager had “already offered [William] a job”.
Meanwhile, The Duchess of Cambridge was busy on the tracks – also trying out taekwondo – as she visited her patronage SportsAid.
Back inside, it was the Prince’s job to officially open the centre, which he did so with the unveiling of a plaque. Next came a boardroom meeting for the 36-year-old.
Introducing UK business leaders and former MP Justine Greening, who also foudned Social Mobility Pledge, he said: “Thank you for being here today and for watching me try and destroy a road!
“I’m delighted to see so many great UK businesses all take an interest in this. Social mobility and opportunity for young people is really really important, and obviously the fact you’re all here, you all understand that.”
William drew a comparison with Prince Charles’ work in a similar area: “This is an area my father has been heavily involved in, through the Prince’s Trust, for many years. So I’ve slightly inherited that interest in trying to think about opportunities and young people’s potential.
“That’s my reasoning for being here, and Martin [Riley, senior Vice President of Tarmac] and I have discussed many opportunities like this for a while. I’m pleased we’re finally all together to be able to have that discussion, so thank you very much.
“I’m here to really listen to the ideas and the challenges and the opportunities that you all think are out there. To be able to share best practice and see where it takes us and what can be done going forwards.”
Commenting on the royal visit, Martin Riley, who also started his own career in as an apprentice, said: “It was an honour to welcome His Royal Highness to our new facility which is already helping people beginning a career in construction and those already established in the sector to develop new skills.
“Major infrastructure programmes are the foundations on which the construction industry and its supply chain are built, providing exciting and rewarding career opportunities for people from all walks of life across the UK who can help shape the built environment of the future.
“We’re extremely proud to launch this new facility.”
Prince William’s next stop was The Beacon Project in Mansfield, where he heard stories of addiction and homelessness – as well as the more lighthearted subject of the disposal of a prosthetic leg!
The Beacon is a day centre which gives support to homeless and vulnerable people, begun back in 2001 after five homeless people came into the church for tea and toast. Beacon now has dedicated facilities and serve and care for up to 50 people on a regular basis, providing a welcoming and safe place where those in need can get a hot meal, clean clothes and access to bathroom facilities; Beacon also offers access to medical care and drop-in sessions once a week, and to support and help in finding accommodation.
The Duke has a long history of working with homeless organisations, having been patron of homeless charity Centrepoint since 2005, even sleeping rough for one night to help understand more about what the homeless face.
One attendee was 58-year-old Delroy Carr, who served with the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters First Battalion and lost his leg 11 years ago because of heroin use. He is currently homeless.
There were lighthearted moments, however. Another service user, Daniel Walker, helped recount the story of losing Delroy’s leg, after he took it home to try to make it more comfortable for his friend.
“His leg from the hospital rubbed and he was getting really bad sores,” Mr Walker told the Royal. He took it home to soften the edges using an angle grinder and returning from work one day, he realised it had gone.
“I’ve come back and I’ve gone ‘Babe, where’s Delly’s leg gone?’,” Walker said. “She went ‘That horrible thing you left in the garage? – it freaked me out, it’s horrible’.
“I said, ‘well, where is it?’, and she went ‘dustbin men took it’.
“And I went ‘oh my God’, I’ve lost Delly’s false leg!”
Daniel Walker, who is trying to come off methadone after serving stints in prison, added: “He’s never had one since – nine years. He’s been hopping mad for nine years.”
“I have respect for William because this is tough. It can have an effect on his mental health doing all of this,” Walker said. “I was supposed to be at an agency signing on for a job, but it’s not every day this happens. I’ll tell them I met Prince William but they won’t believe me.”
Prince William laughed at the tale from the pair, and mentioned that the defence rehabilitation centre ‘is not too far away from here’. The Duke promised to get Carr’s details to the centre, as a veteran, to see if they could help him with a new prosthetic.
William visited the centre with his wife, father and step-mother earlier in the month.
Carr said of the visit: “William is a great man, he’s really down to earth and I like him. I was surprised about how much he knows about homelessness.”
Speaking to Mansfield Mayor Andy Abrahams, a former volunteer at The Beacon Project, The Duke of Cambridge said: “The guys were saying coming off heroin is the hardest thing they’ve had to do, that’s the draw [of it], it’s just so debilitating.”