Two firms tell CN how apprenticeships are a good grounding in the industry and how to keep young people in it
Balbir Panesar moved to England from India in 1963, aged 11. His parents were keen for him to become a doctor but a careers officer persuaded him to train as an electrician at Bradford Technical College.
He now runs Bradford-based building services firm PEC which turns over £8 million, employs 100 staff and takes on jobs of up to £1.5m.
He credits his apprenticeship for helping him on the way up: “I think having a skilled trade behind me to get where I am today. The knowledge of the industry has helped me to run a business that is multi-trade,” he says. The firm started as an electrical contractor but now employs joiners, builders, plumbers and decorators. Clients include Staples, Magnet, Homebase and Kwik Fit for which the firm works as principal contractor.
“One of the main reasons to work direct is [quicker] payment and the relationship is much better,” he says.
PEC itself takes on about three apprentices a year. But Mr Panesar laments that he finds some young people are less enthusiastic about their work than he was. “I don’t feel that they have the same attitude – but it is not all of them. I do come across those that do. We’ve got apprentices that have come through the ranks. But they are fewer and further between than they used to be,” he says.
Mr Panesar recently won a gold award from the Association of Colleges for his achievements in the industry after he trained at Bradford College. He says: “Having personally experienced the value of an apprenticeship, I do all I can to promote training.”
Mivan’s training scheme
Another firm very keen on training young people is Northern Irish contractor Mivan. It was highly commended in this year’s Construction News Quality awards for its apprenticeship scheme. It invests about £200,000 a year hiring 10 apprentices annually.
It works hard to retain students, although loses about 20 per cent of them to other trades annually. Its training and development manager Sinead Toner says: “They get the full support of a lot of people. At induction we speak about the psychological contract, pay, skills and career progression. We ask that they give respect to the training providers and act in a dignified way. Coming out of school it’s a new experience and we encourage them to behave like adults.”