Project Manager Achieves Highest of Grades While Spearheading Refurbishment Team at Raby Estate.

A PROJECT manager is serving his self-improvement goals with distinction after securing the highest of grades.

For the past five years Karl Hankey has been property project manager at Raby Estate and is responsible for a team who maintain and refurbish properties across Raby Estate, in County Durham.

The 41-year-old decided to return to Darlington College one day a week for two years and has just secured distinctions across the board in HNC building studies.

“When I was at school, I never thought I would ever be this well qualified, I thought I would just be a joiner all my life,” said Karl, who was born in Newton Aycliffe but now lives near Northallerton.

“I was so pleased to be awarded distinctions across the board and do feel proud of myself. It has given me a massive sense of achievement and I would highly recommend life-long learning. I’m already taking everything I have learned back to my job on the estate. I’ve just started a Level 6 qualification in site management and hopes to do my Level 7 in site management soon after.

“I didn’t want to stagnate and was keen to better myself so decided to go back to college. The construction trade is fast moving at the moment, and I was keen to understand new techniques – you have to keep up with the times. I’m now pushing my staff to undergo extra training themselves.”

He had high praise for the Darlington College experience. “Academic support staff were incredible and were particularly useful in showing me how best to complete reports and with referencing techniques,” Karl said. “I’d been out of education for so long that this support proved to be very helpful. I wanted to do it for myself and the estate.”

Karl originally wanted to be a joiner like his grandfather and after serving his apprenticeship in bench hand joinery he worked for a leading conservatory company during which time he travelled across the UK and Europe.

He later worked for Redfern Building Services which brought him into contact with the NHS where he began teaching patients with mental health issues.

“Running a workshop for them gave me my first taste of a management role,” recalled Karl. “I later spotted a position with Raby Estates as a maintenance manager and I absolutely love looking after and refurbishing its Residential Properties and Farms portfolio, some of which have been empty for decades and restoring the iconic buildings for future use. We are bringing them back to life in areas of outstanding natural beauty, which is very rewarding, while ensuring the estate retains a traditional look that is in keeping with the location.”

Karl has just overseen the complete refurbishment of grade 2* Hilton Hall making it habitable for modern day living. It started life as a medieval chapel of St Catherine’s Chantry to Staindrop Church, and has been extended over the 17th and 18th century.

“With properties, it is all about making them compliant, while reflecting their age and status,” he said. “We have to make them energy efficient, sustainable, which requires insulation, rewiring and replumbing, while protecting them as well and we have a great relationship with the council and conservation officers.”

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