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Technician's 55 years' service for college

23rd November 2023 – Tags: Construction, Staff

Brian Enefer, a technician who started working for City College Norwich at the age of 16, has reached the milestone of 55 years’ employment with the college.

The practical training at the heart of our students’ and apprentices’ learning simply couldn’t happen without the specialist knowledge, technical know-how, and versatility of a team of technicians. Brian is one of these ‘unsung heroes’ of Further Education.

During his career at the college, Brian has supported thousands of construction and civil engineering students and apprentices. Teaching staff and employers have also benefitted immensely from his expertise.

Brian Enefer in the bricklaying workshop at City College Norwich.

Brian Enefer in the bricklaying workshop at City College Norwich.

After completing his O Levels at City of Norwich School in the summer of 1968, Brian’s preference was to get started in the world of work rather than stay on. The careers teacher recommended that he apply for a laboratory technician vacancy in the building department at what was then known as Norwich City College and Art School.

The interview was made smoother by the discovery that Brian and the head of department shared an interest in motorbikes. Brian admits that he may have slightly overstated the extent of this interest, in the hope that it would help him land the job. Whether or not this was a factor, he was duly appointed. The role came with training, through a City & Guilds Laboratory Technician course.

Brian quickly discovered that the role of a college technician is far more varied than it might at first appear. While the core of the role involves setting up and setting down workshops and labs for practical learning sessions, its scope extends far beyond this.

For example, one of Brian’s early tasks was to assist with the move out of the old Technical Institue premises on St George’s Street (now part of Norwich University of the Arts). Brian has also been called upon to help with trips to construction sites, provide classroom support with teaching and assessments, driving the college minibus, and lending a hand with the enrolment of students. In the days before electronic records, one of the small but vital jobs was to replace the nibs of the ink pens that the new students used to fill out their enrolment cards.

Brian making concrete test cubes and test beams after a mixer lorry demonstration near the brickwork workhop in 2008.

Brian making concrete test cubes and test beams after a mixer lorry demonstration near the brickwork workhop in 2008.

One particular area of expertise that Brian has developed over the years is in materials testing. Up until the early 2000s, the college had a materials testing service that local building contractors used to certify concrete cubes, bricks, and other materials. Brian was responsible for running the testing service for many years. He enjoyed the employer-facing aspect of this role, as well as the specialist knowledge he developed. Whenever he goes for a walk in the centre of Norwich, Brian can identify numerous buildings for which he certified the building materials.

In the course of his work, Brian has worked with thousands of students and apprentices in the areas of construction and civil engineering. As one of his colleague notes, a huge proportion of the bricklayers in Norfolk would have encountered Brian during their training, as he dismantled the brickwork models in the workshop that the trainee bricklayers had built.

‘About 3 weeks ago we were shopping in Waitrose’, says Brian, ‘and this chap came up to me, and introduced himself, and asked to shake my hand. He was a student from many years ago, on an HNC in Construction, and he remembered me. He thanked me for all I’d done in the past, for helping him to get into the position that he is in now, because he’s now a chief engineer at one of the airbases. He thanked me for helping him along.’ 

Brian driving a new forklift truck purchased for the construction department  around 2002.

Brian driving a new forklift truck purchased for the construction department around 2002.

It is not just past and present students who are appreciative of Brian’s contribution. He is hugely respected by the construction lecturers and technicians who have come to depend on his vast knowledge in delivering practical civil engineering and construction training. His knowledge of materials testing and equipment, soil analysis, and soil hydraulics is second-to-none.

Even with retirement on the horizon, Brian remains passionate and enthusiastic about his work, with colleagues describing him as being ‘as keen as ever’, ‘proactive’, ‘reliable’ and ‘dependable’. It is likely that, over the years, he has knocked down a million bricks from the models that students have built – an important task in the bricklaying workshop that he still enjoys to this day.

The majority of Brian’s career has been spent at the college’s Ipswich Road campus, which has changed considerably during his time with the college. The new buildings he has seen built reflect the expansion in student numbers and a changing curriculum. Some of the less well-known changes on site reflect changes of values and culture in further education: Brian can remember the days when there was a toilet exclusively for the principal's use!    

Since 2020, when the two colleges merged, Brian has been based at the construction skills centre at Easton College. His continued energy is reflected by the fact that he commutes the 6-miles from his home to the campus by bike (pedal cycle not motorbike!).

He certainly isn’t ready to hang up his PPE just yet: ‘I’d carry on until 60 [years’ service], if I’m allowed!’, concludes Brian, ‘I’ve always said that while I can, I will.’

Brian Enefer with construction and technician colleagues at an event to mark his 55 years service for the college.