From a war zone to a building site in Jersey

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A KENYAN construction worker – who has helped to build a military base in Afghanistan – has said he is looking forward to putting his skills to use in the Island.

Jersey will certainly be a different environment for James Kuria Ngaruiya, who will not have to worry about getting shot at, as he and 24 other construction workers from Kenya take on new projects in the Island.

The 40-year-old is part of a group who have arrived in Jersey under a new flexible work permit category, which allows employment agencies to recruit construction workers on short-term contracts.

All of them are living in accommodation provided by GR8 and have previously worked on US and UK government contracts in Afghanistan. They will now be taking on residential, commercial and civil engineering projects throughout the Island.

Mr Ngaruiya will be working for a subcontractor on the Limes development but has several years’ experience helping to build an American military base in Kandahar.

‘It was hectic. We had to work wearing body armour and helmets,’ he said.

‘This is easier for me because I’m not expecting disruption. Most of the time we would be busy and then [have to] go to the bunkers so it was hectic, but here I will just be working. Even the family at home are happy about me just because I am not in a war zone,’ he added.

Mr Madden said: ‘We want to get people who are qualified and have relevant experience working with a western contractor – that being the US and British military – to the highest standards.

‘With these guys coming over, we are confident that they have the skill-set to work within our sector.’

He added: ‘We will be working with Skills Jersey and Highlands College to potentially get some people up to the construction courses so they can share their experiences with the young students about what it’s like to work abroad. And what a story to talk about, building army bases in Afghanistan where you’re getting shot at.’

The flexible-permit system means that agencies like GR8 can directly employ people from outside the Common Travel Area to work on projects where needed, rather than be tied into a single employer for a fixed term.

Mr Ngaruiya added: ‘Whenever I am working, I will be relieved because I know that whatever task brought me here, I am doing that.’

In addition to recruiting staff to work on the new nine-month construction permits, GR8 is also planning to bring over workers – from 29 countries from which working visas are not required in Jersey – on six month temporary permits.

‘I didn’t have any problem coming here. It’s all good for me,’ Mr Ngaruiya said.

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