Fraser's building a better life
Entrepreneur Fraser (24) has pushed through a difficult start to become a business owner and deaf role model.
Working hard on the building site Fraser sees a green flashing light in front of him that signals it’s time for a break. Every day is busy, especially since he’s built the business up from scratch and employs five people, but Fraser loves working on huge projects and is currently building an eight-floor block of flats.
Fraser was born profoundly deaf and is the only member of his immediate family with a hearing loss. He uses speech and British Sign Language (BSL) and has one cochlear implant. While he’s thriving now, Fraser had a tough start and struggled with being deaf at his mainstream school. “I was bullied and it wasn’t very nice,” Fraser says. “I also got into trouble at school so I finished early and left when I was 16. I couldn’t sit Highers [the Scottish equivalent of A-levels in the rest of the UK] because I wasn’t very good at English.”
But while Fraser didn’t enjoy school, he found solace being on our Young People’s Advisory Board (YAB). “I was excited to be part of the YAB,” he says. “We created a campaign called Look, Smile, Chat, focused on deaf awareness, and I took this to my school and tried to get them to improve. I taught them how to speak to me in the right way: speak normally, clearly and face me.
“I even met some Members of the Scottish Parliament in Aberdeen. I met First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and we had a nice discussion about my experiences. She was willing to help with our deaf awareness campaign and even had a sign name!”
Since leaving school Fraser has continued to work hard to help other deaf young people. “I work for Deaf Action and I set up Deaf clubs for young people. We get together, meet and organise trips. We’ve been climbing and go-karting,” he says.
“Don’t give up and nothing can stop you.”
“I’m also a mentor for the British Deaf Association. I support young people from deaf homes; they come to me saying they want to learn how to use the local bus system, for example. I’ll go with them and show them how it’s done, how to use a timetable and how to know where you get off or where to go to get a bus to a certain place. I train them up to become independent. I always say to them ‘Just be brave; give it a go.’”
But Fraser’s passion has always laid on the building site. “I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands and doing physical work,” Fraser says. “I’m not the sort to work in an office, typing on my bum all day! I thought working on a building site and in carpentry would be really fun. I watched a guy building an extension for my mum and dad’s house and was fascinated.”
When Fraser left school he decided to find an apprenticeship. “Apprenticeships are great,” he says. “You go to work and college and get paid as well. I was a joiner and worked on a building site. I also went to college to learn from experienced joiners and carpenters. It was a four year course.”
Unfortunately though, Fraser didn’t have a good experience with his college. “I had no support,” he says. “I tried to get an interpreter but they wouldn’t give me one because they said I could hear and speak fine, so I spent extra time and did extra work to make sure I picked up on information I might have missed out on.”
“I think I was the first deaf person to become a qualified joiner in Scotland.”
Fraser persisted and three years ago he qualified as a joiner. “It was the best day ever. All my pals and family were so happy. I think I was the first deaf person to become a qualified joiner in Scotland; it was amazing,” he remembers.
After qualifying, Fraser worked for small local firms to get more experience around the building site. But his entrepreneurial spirit led to him quickly launching his own business and he now employs five people. “We work on big building sites. It’s a really busy job but really fun!”
To make sure his business is deaf aware, Fraser has a simple badge he wears to say he’s deaf. “The most important thing is that I always let anyone on the building site know I’m deaf so they come and see me rather than shout at me,” Fraser says. “I have a special pager in my pocket which I wear in case there’s a fire alarm on the building site. If someone wants to talk to me they can also text me.”
They also make use of technology on the building site. “We have different signals and flashing lights; green means break time and red is the fire alarm for example.”
After such an amazing success story, Fraser is keen to continue sharing his experiences with deaf young people and is always passing on advice. “I’d say to deaf young people: do whatever job you want to do – you can do it,” he says. “Don’t give up and nothing can stop you. Look at me, I’ve gone from leaving school to my own business with five boys working for me. It’s pretty sweet, isn’t it?”