With the industry staring at the threat of a future skills crisis, Professional Builder’s Lee Jones talks to one small building business which is championing the cause of apprentices.
The Adary Joiners story will be a familiar one to the legions of small builders that make up the vast majority of the building industry’s going concerns. Gary and Lucy Sidlow set up the Greater Manchester-based firm three years ago, and the company is engaged in refurb work in and around the Mancunian metropolis.
What sets them apart from some of their peers is a genuine commitment to nurturing the carpentry and joinery talents of the future – a commitment which has been recognised with the Small Employer of the Year accolade at the National Apprenticeship Awards.
Three years ago Gary, a chippie of nearly twenty years standing, and former apprentice himself, and partner, Lucy took the plunge in employing an apprentice, and the experience was so rewarding that they have since added a further three fledgling carpenters.
We asked Lucy Sidlow why she sees the training of the next generation of tradespeople as so important to her own business? “We realised pretty early on that employing a subbie who can leave at a moment’s notice doesn’t necessarily promote stability for your business,” she explains.
“What we wanted was someone who genuinely felt they were part of the team, but who we knew would do the job our way. That apprentice, Anthony Farrell, has now progressed to the point where, if we were to go on holiday, for instance, he can even run a job for us.
“Anthony was so enthusiastic and eager to learn, and so professional with clients, that it just made sense to us to employ more. We now have two Level III apprentices on our books, with a young Salford City College lad by the name of Luke Foster joining as well, both of whom are earning money for the business.
“Since then we’ve also employed a Level II learner in Anton Levinson and a Level I recruit in Cain Williams. The key point is that they do the job how we like it done, because that’s all they’ve known in their short careers.
“For us it’s about future proofing our business with a loyal and stable workforce. It was also very important to make sure that all of our new recruits progressed into the Level III stage of their learning, so that they have the training that we demand.
“Both Anthony and Luke now have their own transport and tools, they can read a drawing on site and work independently – and the loyalty’s there as a consequence.”
All of the Adary Joiners apprentices are placed with experienced joiners who act as mentors to their young charges. They are also regularly rotated around those time-served carpentry professionals in order to gain experience of a range of jobs and woodworking techniques.
Given the level of commitment her company has shown we asked Lucy what more the industry can do to attract young people?
“I think some companies are nervous in taking on apprentices because they’re not sure what they’ll get but it’s really just a question of giving people a chance. There is an investment in time and energy on the employer’s part but with a bit of research you can also access the various grants that are available, and for us it has been a hugely positive experience.”