NCBF held a celebratory lunch at Ramside Hall to promote and support apprentices, their sponsoring employers and the NCBF bursary scheme. NCBF member companies have the chance to bid for funding to recruit an apprentice with over £100k given in bursary awards by the NCBF in recent years.
Member companies Bespoke Concrete Products, Carney Consultancy Ltd, Historic Property Restoration, Surgo Construction, Walter Thompson (Contractors) Ltd, & Wharton Construction were in attendance with apprentices from Classic Masonry Ltd, NB Clark Ltd, McCarrick Construction, M J Phoenix & Son Ltd & VEST Construction (LIVECO Ltd) who have been funded via the NCBF grant.
After thanking everyone for coming Tony Kay, president of the NCBF, talked about the history of the NCBF – how it was originally all smaller companies that came together with the function of nurturing training in the industry – quality, quantity and location. Alas, this has all been eroded in the last 30 years. It has become disjointed; funding has become disjointed and the drop out rates are still too high.
“We want to explore what we, the employers, can do to improve things”, he said.
“The crash of 2008 and all the difficulties that followed gave rise to our bursary scheme, which was initiative to help those companies recruiting apprentices to ease the uncertainty of budget. Member firms must compete for the bursary award, and we have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) so that if the employing company goes bust, another NCBF member or members will pick up the responsibility.”
“This is what we are here today to celebrate and the apprentices who are doing so well under the bursary arrangement.”
Angela Carney, MD at Carney Consultancy and board member representing NCBF at Constructing Excellence in the North East (CENE), then spoke about the challenges faced for the industry and the skilled trades needed in the region. She said:
“Thanks to the construction industry for coming out on top throughout COVID – under difficult circumstance the construction industry was one of the only industries to work all the way through. Thanks to the colleges too, who had a tough time trying to keep the apprenticeship training going, we want to change the image of the industry to change perception. The trades often don’t get the credit they deserve as without the trades, nothing that gets designed would get built.
We need 217,000 new entrants to the industry by 2025 – 6,600 wood trades and tilers, 7,700 electricians, 2,900 painters and decorators and 7,000 plumbers* (*based on figures from Construction Skills Network North East 2021-2025). So, we must work together. We have the bursary scheme but what else? What courses? What are the success rates on courses? What is the number of full-time learners that go into apprenticeships? How many women are in training? – we need more coming through.”
Angela is also part of The National Association of Women in Construction North East (NAWIC), who are dedicated to getting more women into the industry from full-time learning onto apprenticeships. NCBF works closely with NAWIC, providing financial support to help to create an industry environment that is both attractive to and supportive of women.
NCBF has also been a major partner of Constructing Excellence North East (CENE) for a number of years. Kate Lloyd, programme manager at CENE, lead on the NE England Construction Strategy, attended the event to talk about how the region needs to create more opportunities for young people coming through the industry. She said:
“While there is sometimes a perceived disconnect between education and industry, there is a huge amount of positive activity taking place throughout the region. We need to ensure we are giving young people opportunities for education, training and experience in industry settings. We want to make North East England the best place to work, ensuring people have access to training, inclusive workplaces and support from their organisations.’’
In recent years CENE, Construction Industry Council (CIC) and Construction Alliance Northeast (CAN) have collaborated with the construction and built environment sector to develop the OneVoice campaign – the industry’s voice in the region.
OneVoice has four pillars:
Climate – working collaboratively to ensure we deliver on decarbonising the region’s built environment and driving sustainability.
People– working with industry, education and stakeholders to attract, develop, retain, reward and celebrate people equipped with the necessary personal, technical and leadership skills.
Value –supporting clients and other stakeholders to ensure we are focusing on whole-life-value of the assets we build.
Innovation – ensure the region embraces innovation and drives improvements in all aspects of construction, e.g. advanced materials, digital, modern methods of construction etc.
John Cartwright, head of construction and the built environment at Hartlepool College and has been in education for 23 years, asked how colleges and employers can work more closely. He believes that colleges and construction are very similar entities. For example they both have targets and goals. His aim is to get companies to give full time learners some work experience opportunities with the view to an apprenticeship offer. He just wants his learners to get real, meaningful site experience – he encouraged the audience to work with colleges and suggested things such as construction masterclasses on their subject, site tours, set projects, community work or come in as a guest speaker to talk about how they started off in the industry. He said:
“It is a disgrace if contractors are working locally and do not offer site experience – even for just a couple of days, because when learners enter the industry they need the support and guidance so they know what to do and don’t leave the industry after a short period of time. We need employers to offer technical expertise as well as hands-on, experience.”
NCBF continue to support member companies and their apprentices through the bursary scheme and look forward to working alongside partner companies to encourage more young people to join the construction industry.
To find out more about the regional construction organisations mentioned above visit: