This is a reflection on the successful first year of Stephan West’s non-profit making community interest company, Forces Re-Engineered, the garage with a difference…..and successful it truly was.

Stephan (founder and owner of the garage) started/ opened up for business on a truly cold winter’s day, the 3rd January 2017 with one full time apprentice. In February two part time apprentices followed. It was not an easy year, there were ups and downs on every level and at times it felt as if the downs were too crushing, but utter determination and perseverance kept everybody going.

On the emotional level the apprentices truly struggled at times, but they never gave up. All suffer quite severely from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (the reason why Stephan founded the company in the first place). Having secure, safe and relaxed surroundings, the patience and understanding coming from Stephan, the support from Andover College and prolonged time out with Combat Stress, paid out. All apprentices are steadily on a confidence building forward moving path; able to confront and tackle difficult situations they would not have thought of attempting a year ago.

On the physical level, all apprentices and Stephan were often pushed to their limits. The apprentices doing totally different physical work than they have done before, getting used to the strains and the pressure any business brings with it, is an achievement in itself. For Stephan it meant doing all incoming work, as well as overseeing and encouraging the apprentices. The success: the apprentices have passed their exams, practical as well as theoretical. They are ready to take on certain tasks on their own, with just a checking from Stephan afterwards. All this has been a tremendous confidence booster for them.

On the financial level, it felt at times a nail biting risk to have taken on a task like that, but Stephan did hang on in there with quality work, first class work ethics and customer service and the support of loyal customers and the help of kindly given grants managed to turn the situation from nail biting into a total success. The Grants:

The first was given by Waitrose’s, a cheque for £207 from the green chips community project. It was used towards a welding course for the full-time apprentice.

Next, a successful application to Test Valley Borough Council for a small business start-up grant supplied £750. This money helped with basic equipment costs.

The Armed Forces Covenant Grant for £10,000 supplied the much needed mezzanine floor (which has just been finished)    

And last but by all means not least Test Valley Borough Council again stepped forward to help with a community grant of £960 towards an essential exhaust extraction system.


Without all this help from customers being loyal and spreading the word, to generously given grants, Forces Re-Engineered would have had a much harder path to the success they are (well deserved!) experiencing now.

From all the staff, apprentices, directors, events manager, volunteers a huge heartfelt THANK YOU goes out to all those who contributed to this wonderful ongoing success.