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Richard Nissen

Age: 57. Job: Businessman

Attended: College of North West London, 2002 - 2004

Studied: NVQ plumbing

Richard Nissen, who previously trained as an architect, at 53 enrolled on a two-year plumbing course that so impressed him he labelled the college the "Cambridge of plumbing" when he returned to present student awards. In 2003, he started the London-based plumbing firm Staunch and Flow and now runs five crews.

I went to college as a retired businessman and came out a trained plumber.

This enabled me to start a new career and company.

I have learnt so much about what was to me a mystery. But college, like any other state education establishment, is incredibly badly managed compared to the private sector. Plumbing is a skilled profession. It needs entrants who are motivated, intelligent and disciplined. Colleges are still letting people without these attributes join the courses. These people waste other students' and teachers' time.

I am fed up with the failing education system dumping people into trades such as plumbing. It is a highly-skilled profession.

For me, the teachers were really great. All of them were dedicated and tried very hard, despite problems which meant that materials that should have been there were not. So much time and effort was wasted. The workshops were excellent but the architecture of the college could not have been more dire. It just shows that colleges were always the poor relations of the universities.

I am hoping that my plumbing company will be acknowledged as one of London's very best, known for our level of service and the skills of our people.

I am pretty convinced the College of North West London is the best plumbing school in the country. I send all my trainees there.

Richard Nissen was talking to Shekhar Bhatia

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