Jamaican tops City & Guilds Construction exam
IT might have been a blessing in disguise, but losing a public sector job at age 28 was not exactly the kind of break Hugh Small was looking for.
After all, he had given all nine years of his working life to the Public Works Department (PWD) and had served well in Hanover, St James and Trelawny.
But with the advent of the National Works Agency (NWA), government cut Small's position of payroll clerk and sent him home.
Small, who returned to his home in Sandy Bay, Hanover, said he contemplated long and hard before deciding his next move.
"I thought that now I have the time why not try and get some education and move to the other level? So I looked around for a school, somewhere I could do maybe a construction course.
"I decided to make a try at the Brown's Town Community College (BTCC) because I really didn't want to leave Hanover and go all the way to Kingston," Small told the Observer.
He subsequently enrolled at the BTCC in May 2002 for a two-year diploma course in construction. He was put in a class of 27 students, including one woman.
After going through the rigours of the two-year course that included papers in construction, mathematics, design for construction, measurements, and structural mechanics, came some delightful news for the humble, soft-spoken Hanoverian.
It started with awards from the Brown's Town Community College for his accomplishments in internal examinations.
"I got the Technical Campus Award; Brown's Town Community College Award and the George Thompson Award," Small said. He received two trophies for the campus and college awards and a cheque for the George Thompson Award.
But what could be Small's biggest moment came last week when he was informed that had topped the City & Guilds Construction examination among students worldwide.
"I never expected to top City & Guilds," Small admitted.
City & Guilds had not released his exact scores but Small expects to average somewhere in the 90s, which had been his average score during his tenure at Brown's Town Community College.
But the modest scholar did not take the credit all for himself. "It has been hard work. I've always tried to push my colleagues to work harder because I'd seen the potential in others there also. I even encouraged them to form a study group."
"I tried to impart my knowledge to others because most students there were a bit younger than I am, asking me for advice about things," Small, now 30, told the Observer.
The study group worked out quite well, according to Small, as not only was he able to impart knowledge to his fellow students but he learned something from them also.
As a result, the construction group did very well both in year one and in year two.
"I may be on top but it's generally an overall performance. I'm actually looking forward to hear their results being not much lower than mine," Small said.
Said he: "I've been around construction (businesses) for a while. I have an uncle who is an architect and I guess what happened with my family line is that you're either in drafting or you're in accounts; it's either the business side or the technical side.
"I was trained for the business side but sitting in an office all day just messing around with figures I got bored. I wanted to be out there, I wanted to use my creativity, so that's why I got into drafting," said Small.
He added: "But then I didn't stop there. I said (to myself) why stop at drafting, why not get something that covers the whole thing."
Having cleared his first hurdle, Small's next move is to work for a year then go on to university to get a degree in his chosen field.
Small's success in an overseas examination follows that of another St Ann student, Deon Brown, who, while a student at Moneague College last year, scored the highest mark in the world in General Papers.