Our family business dates back 120 years and I’m about the 5th or 6th generation to run the place. We’ve been in construction a long time and we’ve always taken on apprentices.
There are currently 14 people working for the firm on new housing, public contracts and renovations. Many of Pickering’s buildings are down to us, from the infant school to the new doctors’ surgery.
I’ve been here for 24 years and have seen at least 10 apprentices in that time. Most of them are still here! Three quarters of employees have been with us since they left school – and they all started as apprentices.
Guarding our skills and standards
Our latest apprentice bricklayer is Sean McClure, who is in his third year of block release at York College. Meanwhile our longest-serving employee, Richard Metcalfe, began as an apprentice with us 40 years ago.
Now Richard is passing on what he knows to Sean. It’s great from my point of view because it means we don’t lose any of that expertise from the company.
Older members of staff enjoy passing their skills and experience on to apprentices. They share their knowledge of tools and how things were done in the past. You can see how we don’t lose any of that craftsmanship.
That continuity is one of the reasons apprenticeships are good for business. When someone leaves or retires you still have people who know how to do things your way.
Sorting the workers from the wasters
We have high standards as a company and want our apprentices to have them too. They join us when they’re 16, straight out of school. That way it’s easier to mould their skills to the way we do things. The benefits come through what they learn on site plus what they learn at college.
We go through CITB because they get good candidates for us. That makes the whole process easier because you don’t have to deal with time-wasters.
Top tips for taking on an apprentice
Darryl Griffiths works as a CITB Apprenticeship Officer in Dorset. He says there are lots of different ways construction companies can look to take on their own apprentice.
Darryl's top tips for businesses are:
1. Decide which trade you want your apprentice to do
Many companies don’t know what apprenticeships are available, that there’s one in kitchen-fitting for example. So find out what’s available.
2. Get help in finding your apprentice
You can recruit among people you know or by advertising a vacancy through the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS). Young people are encouraged to use the NAS by schools and careers services. Or CITB can advertise though NAS on your behalf.
3. Draw up a shortlist before interviews
Have a think about what you want to learn from the interviews before the candidates arrive. What kind of person are you looking for? Would they be a good fit with how your firm works?
4. Have him or her in for a work trial first
Once you have a candidate you are happy with, take them on for a two-week trial before making a final decision.
5. Get help in sorting out their training
Your apprentice can enrol in a local college or CITB can arrange this for you.