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Focus on youth to cement the future; John Sayers, managing director at Hodgson Sayers, discusses why it's so important to seek out and nurture our region's talented youngsters.

AS a person who entered work as an apprentice and then became a managing director, no one needs to tell me about the great opportunities that this path offers young people. When I started as an apprentice nearly 30 years ago, little did I realise the route my career would eventually go.

We are absolutely committed to developing the next generation of our workforce and to making apprentices 10% of our total workforce.

Established in 1979, primarily as a roofing company we have diversified considerably over the years to include building works, fencing, metal fabrication, security doors and enclosures, acoustic enclosures, pitched and flat roofing and solar pv panels as part of our offering.

Part of the reason we have been able to grow is due to our skilled workforce and that is why we are committed to sourcing and developing talented youngsters living not only within Durham where we are based, but the wider region.

We were thrilled to be recognised within the region at the 2014 NE Business Awards where the company was, this month, shortlisted within the apprenticeship category of the Wearside and Durham Final.

This accolade followed shortly after we achieved national success at the prestigious London Housing Consortium Awards through a pitched roofing project with client, ISOS Housing.

We are perhaps one of a number of companies that enjoys long-term staff longevity. We have Contracts Managers who began their career as apprentices at the company and now act as mentors to the younger generation, showcasing just what can be achieved with hard work and determination.

We are aware that it is not just the construction sector that faces a skills shortage and we are proactive in our attempts to seek out talented individuals who can drive the company forward.

In line with this ambition, we have and are continuing to forge links with local schools and colleges in order to help enable the transition from education into employment. As part of this process we recently hosted a visit from potential apprentices currently undergoing construction courses at Durham Community College, part of the Durham Federation.

From our links with local colleges, we have four apprentices - Paul Oxley, Alexander Atkinson, Adam Neil and Jake Hall who have been with us for a year and are enjoying learning the skills behind the trade at Newcastle College. There they learn all aspects of roofing including Slating and Tiling, as well as Built up Felt Roofing which enables them to apply these new skills whilst working on current projects.

We assign them onto live projects as part of a three-man squad so that they can be at the forefront of the action, become involved, working within a team and assisting the Managers with tasks.

Our motivation for sourcing apprentices is quite simple - we aim to provide the future generation with a solid skill set and to encourage those that wish to with the opportunity to rise into senior management roles. It will be our legacy. I started off as an apprentice and worked my way to the top, so I know first-hand what can be achieved.

We currently have 10 apprentices working within our teams who are all learning a trade, whether this is within administration or within the building teams they are all choosing their individual career paths.

It is important that they feel part of a team together and can learn from each other. It also provides them with the motivation to do well if their peers are succeeding.

We encourage our youngsters to take part in competitions or events where they are able to demonstrate their growing skills. We were extremely proud when one of our apprentices - Paul James - represented the North East of England in a Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) event last year.

Paul travelled to Leeds and demonstrated his skills in roofing, slating and tiling, in front of a panel of judges, whilst competing against nine other youngsters. Paul re-set a plain tile into a bonnet hip and a valley whilst being judged on the spot!

It is important to us that his talent was recognised so that he can see how well he is progressing and be proud of his accomplishment.

Another of our team, Ronnie Hetherington, commenced his employment with us in August 2010, as a built-up flat roofing apprentice.

Ronnie enrolled in a CITB three year apprentice scheme based at Birmingham's National Construction College.

Having taken the time to learn the intricacies of the roofing profession, Ronnie proceeded to excel amongst his peers and, on his way to achieving his apprenticeship, was nominated to receive an award at the annual National Construction College awards. At the glittering ceremony, Ronnie got to rub shoulders with celebrities, including building legend, Tommy Walsh!

Quite simply, 100% of our apprentices are offered a full-time job at the end of their qualification. It is an absolute guarantee and it sends a clear message to every young person we employ that we are truly committed to their future as well as that of the company. Our commitment to the apprenticeship programme is evident throughout the company structure where they appear at every level. Our message to new apprentices is simple; there is no limit to where you can go and what you can achieve!

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Hodgson Sayers >apprentices, from left, Jake Hall, Paul Oxley, Adam Neil and Alexander Atkinson
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 14, 2014
Words:895
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