January 3, 2020
Vocational education is Newcastle College’s strength, whether that’s across its further education provision, higher education or apprenticeships of all levels. The college firmly believes that everyone should have the opportunity to achieve their goals and one of its key priorities is to forge relationships with employers, both large and small across the North East, which allows it to develop curriculum and skills training centred around the ever-changing needs of industry.
One of those companies is Stanley-based building and roofing specialist Hodgson Sayers, which partnered with Newcastle College in 2013 to deliver apprenticeships for both new and existing members of its team.
Mike Wade, finance manager at Hodgson Sayers, explains: “We have long been an advocate of the apprenticeship delivery model, with our executive chairman, managing director and operations manager being products of that regime.
“For a number of years, our apprentices for both the flat roofing and the slating and tiling disciplines, travelled to other cities, as there was no local training facility. Indeed, our first apprentices travelled to Birmingham.
“When training facilities were developed at Newcastle College, we were keen to be involved and the relationship grew from there. We met with principal Tony Lewin to discuss how the delivery of the courses should meet our skills requirements. High on the agenda was to ensure communication channels between the college and Hodgson Sayers were robust enough to withstand the inevitable challenges young people would present.”
Over the past six years, the college has supported Hodgson Sayers to train 39 apprentices in roofing, slating and tiling. During that time, a number of changes to apprenticeships were introduced, including the Apprenticeship Levy, which resulted in the North East having the lowest number of apprentices in training across the entire country.
Despite this, Newcastle College firmly believes that apprenticeships are key to supporting the region’s skills needs and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s target of 100,000 new jobs by 2024.
Lynsey Whitehead, director of apprenticeships at Newcastle College, explains: “Skills are at the heart of our regional economy and education and hands-on training are critical to developing the skills needed to grow the North East and push us forward.
“Apprenticeships allow employers and education providers to develop skilled workers together, ensuring that we meet the needs of business, the needs of industry and the needs of the region, while giving apprentices the opportunity to develop a long-term, rewarding career.”
The team at Hodgson Sayers agrees that apprenticeships are still the way forward for training in its industry, with Mike continuing: “While we recognise there are challenges ahead following the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy and Trailblazer Standards, we will work with Newcastle College to ensure our skills training needs continue to be met.
“With our total payroll being on the cusp of the threshold of the Levy limit, we have had to manage this carefully but with the assistance of the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), Newcastle College and the relatively simple process on the Government website, this has not proven to be a difficulty. We’re committed to investing in the future of all of our team members, whether new or existing, and believe this strategy is key to our future.
“Apprenticeships are one of the main training routes we have used for those joining us at the start of their employment journey in construction. A mixture of on and off-the-job training provides practical skills that would be difficult to replicate otherwise.
“The discipline of 20 per cent off-the-job training ensures those basic lessons are learned in blocks of one or two weeks for our trade apprentices and then applied during the periods when they are on-the-job. This has worked well for us in the past. It delivers operatives ready to continue their learning and development and who become competent tradesmen, contributing to the ongoing success of our business.”
And there is no doubt that apprenticeships have contributed to the ongoing success of the business, with so many senior members of the team climbing the ladder from that route.
Now, apprentices are tested against the best in the country and the company’s partnership with Newcastle College has resulted in a number of successes at national skills competitions in recent years.
This year, apprentices Jordan Condren and David Crank achieved the gold and bronze positions respectively at WorldSkills UK, the nation’s largest skills competition.
The duo showcased their skills in different aspects of flat roofing and tiling in front of 80,000 people over the two-day event.
It is these successes which prove that apprentices produce a skilled and talented workforce and are still very much fit for purpose.
Mike continues: “Our ongoing relationship with Newcastle College is one we value greatly and we have always appreciated that the fantastic tutoring our apprentices receive, alongside in-house training, is why they are the cream of the crop.
“The ease of communication between the college and ourselves is a key benefit. We have been able to stress our skills requirements, as well as the softer learning and mentoring needs, to ensure apprentices come to us work-ready and with the desire to continue their learning journey.
“There are challenges and a degree of uncertainty in the future over the Brexit process but rest assured that construction will survive, as we all need buildings to live and work in! We will continue to work with the college, the CITB and appropriate industry bodies to ensure our skills requirements are met.”
Lynsey concludes: “Our partnership with Hodgson Sayers is extremely important to us and is a fantastic example of just how effective apprenticeships and skills development can be in meeting the needs of business and the wider region when done right.
“It is through close working relationships with employers like Hodgson Sayers that Newcastle College can adapt and develop curriculum to meet the needs of employers and produce a talented workforce for the future of the North East.”