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Bright future ahead for construction; The regional construction industry has had some ups and downs over the last few years but out of the difficulties of the recession and given the region''s reputation for hard work and determination, it is not surprising that there is also some good news to report.

THE launch of 4041, a not-for-profit organisation that is leading the way in apprentice training is among the good news coming out of the construction industry.

It is a progressive firm with a passion for success and it heralds a bright, new future for regional construction.

It has been established to support young people, most notably entrants to the industry, by providing practical hands-on experience for apprentices in the fields of construction and property maintenance at a time when many businesses in the sector are laying people off.

With 4041, young people are being given the chance to start a career when growing numbers are without work and without hope. It is the only social enterprise company in the area offering such a win-win solution for its customers.

All surplus funds are reinvested into the business for the benefit of existing and future employees and with this business model, the enterprise is really helping to shape the future of regional construction, according to its director Peter Galbraith: "We can work in a number of different ways with companies. For building contractors or any private developer, 4041 can operate as part of the delivery team.

"Trainees are already Level 2 qualified yet because they are still in training, work at a much reduced rate. In return for this we only ask that the learners are offered assessment opportunities to enhance their learning experience," he says.

"Charities, not-for-profit organisations, public sector bodies and heritage organisations benefit in the same way. In these situations many projects have been put on hold due to funding shortages and it is a difficult balancing act if you have responsibility for a range of public services and are trying to honour commitments made, yet at the same time, deliver improved results with less money.

"In the housing sector particularly, there is growing pressure for new homes but a lack of funding to build them, yet there are plenty of void properties that could so easily be refurbished with 4041 at a much lower cost than using traditional construction solutions.

"The main point is that 4041 is generating sustainable employment for local young people who could otherwise find themselves out of work without the training and support we are offering.

"It means for cash-strapped organisations, they can deliver more ambitious projects than they may have envisaged yet at the same time, provide a really valuable step on the career ladder for young people."

Tyneside-based Home Group, one of the UK's largest providers of affordable housing, saw the wisdom in this opportunity a few months ago, awarding the firm a contract to totally refurbish a Grade II-listed building in St Thomas Crescent in Newcastle city centre.

The property, a four-storey terraced house, forms part of Home Group's extensive housing stock in the region. The scope of work offered by this project allowed 4041 employees to gain additional experience to assist their already developing skills across all the construction trades, including roofing, plastering, tiling, painting and decor-ating, heating and plumbing and electrical works. Galbraith says: "The experience of working on this project has been invaluable for the apprentices.

It has given them hands-on experience over a wide range of skills.

"But, of course, with any listed building work, once you start to scratch beneath the surface to undertake renovation work, there can be all sorts of other factors that come to light and this project was no exception.

"As a result, the original works programme has been extended somewhat and with two more weeks to go, the larger works are now in hand such as fitting the kitchen and bathroom suite and updating the heating system.

"It would be fair to say that it has been a learning curve for both parties but I think it has been a very successful scheme and we achieved what we set out to achieve. We have worked in close collaboration with Home Group and they have been very supportive in bringing on the apprentices and providing these opportunities.

"We have now had some further inquiries from Home Group and are looking at some additional projects in the city, so we are delighted."

Sarah Borien, Home Group's apprenticeship delivery manager, says: "As a provider of social housing we're committed to offering opportunities to people to improve their lives. Part of this involves providing chances for employment and training and Home Group is creating more than 200 apprenticeships and training opportunities.

"We're also keen to support other organisations which share the same ethos and after hearing about the vision for 4041 and the great opportunities that the directors are securing for the trainees, we felt that the St Thomas Crescent project would give them a super opportunity to showcase their skills and training as well as gain further experience.

"We know that 4041 plans to increase its number of employees and apprentices and has indicated that we could promote these vacancies to Home Group customers, so I would love to see us continue to provide this type of opportunity for training."

Rosemary Du Rose, Home Group's executive director of customer service, says: "It's very important for us to not only build high-quality homes but to create thriving communities and offering our customers the chance of employment and a step on to the career ladder is one way we can achieve this."

The team has also been kept busy with a number of smaller domestic and commercial construction projects in and around the region and can boast a great many referrals and positive testimonials from satisfied customers.

To date its workload has included numerous bathroom and kitchen refurbishments which have involved rewiring, plastering, plumbing, tiling, relaying floors, painting and decorating as well as the installation of kitchen units and bathroom suites. Current projects include working on a full flat refurbishment in Gateshead which includes stripping the original property back to a shell and remodelling the existing layout to suit the client's requirements.

In Low Fell, the trainees have just completed a new-build project, a four-bedroom dormer bungalow, and in Great Lumley, County Durham, the team built a 5m x 5m garden room. Both of these projects were built at two-thirds of the cost of the next competitive quote.

The Patel family, who own the property in Great Lumley and commissioned 4041 to do the work, are thrilled with their new garden room extension. Mrs Patel says: "Everyone who comes to the house is so impressed with the room. The old conservatory that was too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer (and ready to fall down anyway) is now a beautiful room that we can use all year round.

"I cannot praise the staff highly enough. Without exception they were a pleasure to deal with. The skilled men set an excellent example to the young apprentices and exhibited better teaching skills than many trained teachers!" Galbraith adds: "We are delighted to have picked up so many projects for these young people which provide tremendous learning opportunities.

"By appointing 4041, customers are not only guaranteed a quality job but at the same time, can take satisfaction from knowing that they are giving young people a chance to get the experience needed to launch their careers.

"All our work is pre-quoted, often in competition with established building firms, with which we are more than competitive on price, attitude and responsiveness. Because the employees are in training, they can sometimes take a little longer to complete certain tasks, so projects such as St Thomas Crescent, where the building is unoccupied, provide the ideal opportunity for gaining experience and embedding their skills.

"All contracts are supervised day to day by experienced tradesmen who act as mentors. In this way, all of our employees are able to complete the on-site work they require to gain their NVQs as they rotate through each of the trades needed for the job.

"With building contractors who are required to employ apprentices on certain public sector contracts, we can offer an ideal solution with 4041 trainees. This is because often the requirement for a certain type of skill is only for a short duration, so it is not feasible to provide a full apprenticeship for a requirement that may only have a six-week timeframe.

"However, the contractor can draw down individual apprentices as required for a range of different skills as dictated by the project.

"This is why we are confident that going forward, there will be a steady demand for our work as word spreads about the benefits of working with the 4041 training and delivery model."

Trade Training Associates is a strategic partner in the delivery of the firm's training. The training provider, which offers training in heating, ventilating and plumbing, electrical work, automotive sales and has a hair and beauty academy, provides a complete range of construction trades training and has been noted for its learner-focused approach, which is ideally suited to its development needs.

It would be fair to say it has been a learning curve for both parties but I think it has been very successful


ENTERPRISE 4041 director Peter Galbraith. Left, a night view of the garden room in Great Lumleywhich the firm built

REFURBISHMENT PROJECT Apprentices at St Thomas Crescent, from left, Jack Davies, Andrew Asiamah and John Thompson
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 17, 2013
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