From war-torn Afghanistan to award winning apprentice



A graduate apprentice from Heriot-Watt has gone from escaping bloody conflict in Afghanistan to be named Scottish Apprentice of the Year.

Shams Rahimi, 26, is currently studying for an Undergraduate Degree (Hons) in Civil engineering thanks to the university's Graduate Apprenticeship Scheme which is supported by his employers GRAHAM.

But the student's heart-breaking back story shows his struggle and determination, to get to where he is today. 

Shams moved to the UK in 2011 when he fled from his home town Keshem, in the war-torn north east province of Badakhshan.

The bloodshed and turmoil had become too much for the young Afghan - who was 17 at the time - so he made the difficult decision to leave his family and friends behind to seek a better life in the UK.

Sham arrived in England as a refugee, but after receiving his Right to Remain from the Home Office, was transferred to the Gorbals in Glasgow.

Determined to get a job, he walked from his accommodation to a GRAHAM construction site in the city centre and waited outside until there was a manager on site to ask for an interview. 

But with no job history he impressed interviewers with his enthusiasm to learn.

Now the brave student, who is studying at the university's campus in Edinburgh, has scooped an award for Scottish Region Apprentice of the Year at the CITB awards in London on Thursday 1 November. 

Speaking about fleeing one of the most dangerous parts of the world, Shams said: “When I left Afghanistan, it was a country on its knees. My town used to be safest part of the country, but then it suddenly changed into chaos.

“Afghanistan takes opportunities away from people so I made the decision that I had to get out. I had to leave the chaos and seek asylum even if that meant leaving my family behind.”

When Shams arrived in Glasgow, he came across construction company GRAHAM by chance after watching a documentary.

Shams added: “The construction company gave me a chance and Heriot-Watt has given me a chance, and for that I'm very grateful.

“I'm also delighted to pick up the CITB Apprenticeship Award and my story proves you can do anything - if you put your mind to it.

“Now I travel from Glasgow to Edinburgh for my studies and although I only enrolled in September, it has already allowed me to develop skills and training.

“I do miss my family and friends back in Afghanistan. They're always on my mind, but I'm thankful for this opportunity.”

Heriot-Watt currently works with over 70 organisations from across Scotland delivering first-class apprenticeships, creating opportunities for individuals like Shams to transform their lives and drive productivity growth within Scottish businesses.

Dr Gill Murray, Deputy Principal Enterprise and Business at Heriot-Watt said: “Congratulations to Shams on his amazing achievement. His story is one of courage and determination and we're delighted that he has joined Heriot-Watt to continue his inspirational journey through our Graduate Apprenticeship Scheme.”

By Laura Varney

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