Ashfield building firm boss hails value of apprentices

Investing in apprenticeships is a concrete way of plugging the skills gap in the construction industry.

That is the view of building firm boss Chris Rick, who says employers have a duty to “pass on their skills to the younger generation”.

“Apprenticeships are a worthwhile investment of your time and, for the individuals doing them, a route to a decent career.

Chris Rick, co-founder of Bronbury Services

Bronbury Services – the family business he runs with brother-in-law and business partner Matt Downs and their respective wives Katie and Lisa – has employed four apprentices since launching in 2003.

They include 27-year-old Chris Adey, who completed a two-year apprenticeship after joining the Sutton-based building contractor upon leaving school, rising to the position of site supervisor.

Co-director Mr Rick, aged 41, began his own working life as an apprentice electrician at the age of 16, which was the springboard to establishing a successful business.

Now the firm is giving Mansfield teenager Jacob Hartshorn the chance to develop a career in construction.

The 18-year-old impressed on a three-month trial as a labourer and was offered a two-year apprenticeship in site joinery with the Coxmoore Road firm, which manages building projects for domestic customers and commercial clients including councils and housing associations.

Jacob is learning his craft by getting hands-on practical experience while working towards an industry-recognised qualification on day-release at Vision West Nottinghamshire College.

His learning programme was put in place by Vision Apprentices, the college’s apprenticeship training agency, Vision Apprentices.

Mr Rick said: “We hired Jacob with a view to putting him through an apprenticeship if he proved himself – and that’s exactly what he did.

“We contacted Vision Apprentices, which advised us about the apprenticeship grants available, arranged Jacob’s training and even organised a visit to the college’s construction campus in Kirkby, which is an impressive facility.

“They look after Jacob’s ongoing development and support us every step of the way.”

The company accessed the apprenticeship grant for employers for young people aged 16 to 24, a national funding pot to help businesses put young people through work-related training.

Eligible employers can receive grants of up to £1,500 per apprentice, up to a maximum of five – which can include new recruits or existing employees they want to upskill.

Mr Rick said apprentices are the lifeblood of any business – and essential to creating a highly-trained workforce.

He said: “There’s already a skills gap in the construction sector – how will people become future managers unless they’ve had ‘real world’ experience?

“It’s vital we pass on our skills to the younger generation, otherwise there won’t be any tradesmen in years to come. We’ve got to bring new people through.

“Apprenticeships are a worthwhile investment of your time and, for the individuals doing them, a route to a decent career.

“As Jacob progresses through his apprenticeship, we’ll look at taking another one on. It’s something we want to keep rolling over.”

Jacob continues to make excellent progress on his level two intermediate apprenticeship in site carpentry and wood occupations, which he is due to complete in 2017.

He said: “I was happy when given the chance to do an apprenticeship. Learning new skills gives you an ‘edge’ over other people and takes you further in life.

“I’d love to have a career in the building trade, so this has been a great move for me.

“And one day I may end up running my own company like Chris and Matt.”

* Your Chad has teamed up with West Nottinghamshire College and its recruitment arm Vision Apprentices to urge employers in Mansfield and Ashfield to take on an apprentice.

Our Vision for Jobs campaign aims to get more people earning a wage while gaining the skills for their future career.

If you think apprenticeships could benefit your business, call Vision Apprentices on 0800 121 8317 or email