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Business & Economy

Wharton Construction continues to embrace apprenticeships as solution to labour shortage

Wharton Construction has grown its number of apprentices to three as it seeks to overcome the uncertainties caused by current shortages in the labour market.

The Darlington headquartered business has long championed apprenticeships and is seeking to provide long-term career opportunities for young people at a time when the industry is seeking to counter the effects of an ageing workforce.

It has taken on 18-year-old Charlie Walker, from Darlington, who joins apprentices Ryan Honeyman, 28, and Callum Haymer, 19, who are also both from Darlington, who are completing their third year of their scheme.

Director Matthew Wharton said that apprenticeships were highly valued by the family run firm as they help to maintain the industry knowledge and deliver the quality skills we require.

He said: “The UK has a record number of job vacancies, combined with a skill shortage, and there is huge competition to fill vacancies.

“We have had to use agency staff to plug the gaps, but they are also in demand, and can often only commit to odd days rather than a sustained period. We would much rather directly employ people with the right skills or train them up in the case of apprentices. That way they become part of a team that is dedicated to outstanding workmanship, integrity, and safety.”

Charlie, whose father was also a bricklayer, added: “I’d really recommend an apprenticeship in construction. It’s a great career and I’ve already learnt many skills, not just bricklaying.”

Wharton Construction, which has recruited six apprentices over the past five years, specialises in commercial and public sector projects.

It is involved in several high-profile projects across the North East and North Yorkshire, including The Northern Studios, the region’s first dedicated large-scale film and TV studio at The Northern School of Art’s Hartlepool campus, the transformation of Darlington’s historic indoor market, a new sixth form centre at Carmel College, Darlington, and the Goosepool Bar at Teesside International Airport.

Matthew added: “Like the haulage industry, the construction industry is suffering a skills gap as well as an ageing workforce, with a majority of workers in the 35 to 54 age group. We must encourage the next generation to consider a career in construction – blending traditional skills with a technical evolution that continues at pace.

“As we move towards achieving net zero, the industry is embracing new materials, building methods and technology, including building information modelling and digital twins, virtual and augmented reality, and artificial intelligence. This will not only improve productivity and efficiency but will make the construction industry a more attractive prospect to young people.”