Hundreds of young people are getting the chance of well-paid apprenticeships and jobs in the construction industry as a company founder expands his training arm in Teesside and County Durham with help from UK Steel Enterprise.
Steve Willis, who started Brickwork Services in 2005 in UK Steel Enterprise’s Innovation Centre in Hartlepool, took matters into his own hands when he was faced with a chronic shortage of skilled bricklayers. He set up sister company Pro-active Safety to provide consultancy services and training opportunities in bricklaying, scaffolding and general construction.
Pro-active Safety are now working with Profound Group, based on Peterlee Business Park to offer Traineeship and Apprenticeship programmes to young people in the area.
Now, a £50,000 unsecured loan from UK Steel Enterprise, the Tata Steel business support subsidiary, is helping Pro-active Safety to expand.
A second centre, opened in Peterlee, has welcomed its first batch of trainees and expects to cater for 200 apprentices during 2016, as well as a further 90 general operative trainees.
An initial 90 traineeships at the company’s Hartlepool centre led to 60 paid apprenticeships then full-time jobs with Brickwork Services. Currently, a further 60 young people are in training there in general construction.
Brickwork Services was also backed by UK Steel Enterprise in 2013 when a £50,000 investment formed part of a £100,000 expansion project and created around 40 jobs.
“UK Steel Enterprise helped us originally when we were finding it difficult to access finance despite a growing order book at Brickwork Services,” explained Steve Willis. “Without their help at a crucial time we could not have grown so successfully or established Pro-active Safety and we are grateful for this new investment. Currently we employ around 140 bricklayers on contract across the North and are working on more than 17 sites.”
The company has contracts worth millions of pounds with clients that include Gentoo, Wimpey, Bellway Homes, Keepmoat Homes, Seneca Homes, Bernicia and Esh Group.
“It was frustrating to find ourselves turning away lucrative contracts because of the shortage of skilled bricklayers,” said Steve Willis. “So we decided to do something about it ourselves and Pro-active Safety works in partnership with training organisations such as NCT Training and, recently, the Profound Group at Peterlee.
“It’s been hard work but is paying dividends for everyone. We have companies providing invaluable work-based placements for our trainees which improves our success rate, links to schools to offer vocational training and we have also created more than 25 full time posts for tutors.”
Sarah Thorpe of UK Steel Enterprise said: “Steve has decades of invaluable experience in the construction industry and our confidence in his companies has been more than justified. Brickwork Services works with a growing number of blue-chip companies and Pro-active Safety is helping to solve a serious skills shortage and provide opportunities for young people in our steel areas to gain recognised qualifications and a career for life.”