How do you secure that first step onto the construction industry careers ladder? Apprentice Builder visits the Stoke site of national housebuilder and champion of apprenticeship training opportunities, Seddon to find out
“Speak to anyone in Stoke and they’ve either worked for Seddon or know somebody who has,” explains the Project Skills Co-ordinator, Emma Dempster at the company’s latest project in town, the Slater Street development for Housing Association Sanctuary Homes. The Bolton-based national housebuilder has had a presence in the Potteries for over sixty years and in that time literally hundreds of young people have benefitted from its mission to foster the tradespeople of the future. So what does it take to forge a career in with one of the industry’s leading names?
Over its 117-year history Seddon has followed a ‘grow your own’ philosophy, with its Chairman Christopher Seddon adamant that the company should train for the sake of the industry as well as for its own workforce. The opportunities for personal development at Seddon itself, however, are very real with many of its site and project managers having risen through its apprenticeship scheme ranks.
Advice on how to secure that all important first opportunity in the industry from a company that presently has 70 apprentices on its books, and has trained an estimated two and a half thousand over the course of its trading history, should not then be ignored.
“I have real misgivings about the amount of news coverage that the skills shortage is generating at the moment,” declares Roy Cavanagh, Seddon’s Training Manager. “Every single college up and down the land will be crammed full of young tradespeople who want a career in the industry but don’t have a Seddon to go to. At the moment the industry is letting those young people down because they want the chance and they’re not getting it, and for those companies that are complaining that there’s a skills shortage I would say to them that of course there will be if you don’t train.”
Unlike many large contractors, who rely on a sub-contractor supply chain for its workforce, Seddon is a direct employer which means it’s well-placed to offer training opportunities, but also sees real business benefits in nurturing an individual from sixteen. “We don’t just teach the skills needed to be a proficient plasterer or plumber,” continues Roy, “but will instil the philosophy of the company. We want all of our apprentices to go to NVQ III because we believe that that should be the level at which you are plying your trade – NVQ IV should then be for those that want to pursue a management path.”
“Additionally, apprentices should be adopting a lifelong learning approach,” Roy explains: “It’s fantastic to see an individual develop through the NVQ stage and, if they’ve got the ability, to move on to site management level. We would urge and we would urge and encourage anyone who has the ambition to progress as far as they can.”
So what does Seddon look for in a trainee if they’re to be benefit from its apprenticeship scheme? “At the interview stage the individual needs to have done their homework, so they know about Seddon and the industry,” continues Roy. “Furthermore, they’ve got to demonstrate that they have a firm grasp of what the trade they profess to have ambitions in entails. Just the most basic knowledge like knowing what tools a joiner might use for a particular job can make a really good impression.
“In many ways it’s just the old fashioned things that Seddon, or any other employer, is looking for – look the interviewer in the face and make him believe that you really want the opportunity. Training an apprentice can cost up to £35,000 to £40,000 in wages and overheads in a three-year period and might get £11,000 back in grants, so any employer has got to be sure that the candidate will make a productive employee in that period as well. If you do convince them of that then the chance will come.”
For further information on the training Seddon provides visit www.apprentices.seddon.co.uk
National Skills Academy
The National Skills Academy is managed by the Construction Industry Training Board and is open to businesses with a minimum of £50 million worth of work a year. Seddon is National Skills Academy accredited and has seven sites with academy status. For apprentices, it means that they have the support of a Project Skills Co-ordinator, like Emma Dempster, who work closely with site teams and colleges to ensure that they get the support they need and a genuine overview of a the industry as a whole as well as specific training in a particular trade.
For further information visit www.cskills.org/nsacademy