“Around 12 months ago V&C contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in developing and expanding the apprentice programme.
“Vince and I became painting and decorating apprentices at Shrewsbury College on the same day in the ‘80s, working for the same company, so we know what it’s like to be an apprentice, to make the tea, run errands, strip endless walls of woodchip and start a career.
“We’re firm believers in apprenticeships at V&C. Apprentices are our future and will help the business grow and become stronger.
“We have 15 apprentices at the moment and we’re looking for more. We’ve got strong links with NPT College, Gower College, Cardiff & Vale College and Merthyr College and the lecturers are very passionate about developing young people.
“Apprenticeships have many benefits. Apprentices get paid to learn a trade, within two to three years they’re off the apprenticeship wage and earning good money.
“Their qualifications are recognised worldwide, too. It means construction can literally take you places. Some of my former students are in Australia and New Zealand, enjoying an amazing life there. You can earn a great living, anything’s possible.”
Barry says CITB’s help with funding has been “amazing”.
“Alison from CITB visited us and gave a crash course in how to claim funding through the website. It’s been a simple process. It took me a couple of hours to get the hang of it.
“We’ve had £5K from the Skills & Training Fund. This has funded various training including: Site Supervisors' Safety Training, Site Management Safety Training, Oxford Access Systems and Microsoft Office, with great help from Swansea Bay Construction Support Group.
“Before Alison, the company had some issues claiming funding. Now applications are seamless. I know what to click on. The website is quick and easy to use and I can get through to the helpline straight away.”
Get more information on the CITB Skills and Training Fund.
Pontardawe-based Rhian Jones, 25, is doing a two-year level two NVQ and diploma and NVQ in painting and decorating. She works on various sites around Cardiff and Swansea.
“When I left school at 16 I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.
“I did childcare then health and social care for three years, working in mental health.
“Over the last two years I began thinking about changing direction. I enjoy decorating so I thought: ‘Why don’t I do something I enjoy and get paid to do it as well?’
“I didn’t know how to go about getting into construction. In the end I contacted Neath College and spoke to them about what I’d have to do. That got me started.
“I really enjoy the work; I find it therapeutic. The best thing is seeing a job done and how it all turned out.
“The most challenging aspect was going on site for the first time. I was nervous, thinking that there wouldn’t be any women to talk to. But I got used to it. Everyone I work with is lovely.
“I’ve been paired up with a mentor, Nigel. He’ll show me what to do then I’ll get on and do it myself. He says: 'ring if you need me’ and checks everything is all right later in the day.
“My advice to girls thinking about a career in construction is: ‘If it’s something you want to do you’ve got to go for it. You can’t go through life thinking: ‘What if?’ Take the leap and do it. It will pay off in the end.’ I thought: ‘I’m 25 now. If I don’t do it now I’m never going to do it.’”