What do you do when you’d like young people fresh out of school to be prepared for working in your environment and attuned to your way the job’s done? How can you instil a bit of your own work ethic and knowledge about the way you operate before you sign them up into an apprenticeship?
Don’t waste your time making sure you only take people on board who already have some limited experience or send them to pre-trade training at polytech – set up your own pre-apprenticeship programme instead – invite other businesses to get on board and you’ll all reap the rewards.
That describes a new initiative that Bettabuilt NI Ltd has recently put in place. It’s called the 1st Steps Programme and Chris Powell, Operations Manager says it’s going to prove to be a winner for their business. The programme was launched with an official opening celebration on Friday, 19 August where Bettabuilt invited special guests over for a BBQ and to meet the young guys and other partners that are helping this programme become a reality.
The 1st Steps programme takes school leavers through a twelve-week regime where they learn ‘the old-fashioned way’ says Chris. These trainees work as Trade Assistants four days a week and each Friday they spend the day in the workshop learning. Workshop days provide training and exposure to all sorts of areas including carpentry, making saw horses, oil stone boxes etc as well as more formal training in health & safety. Even life-skills are built into the programme such financial literacy and goal-setting. In the final stages of the programme the first cohort of trainees will build ‘tiny houses’ which will be on-sold as sleep-outs. Chris says, “We’ve specifically chosen this as a project as it will expose them to most of the elements they will come across in building a house.”
“They get exposure to carpentry, concrete, plumbing and electrical trades and at the end of the programme some of them will graduate into apprenticeships and others will move to other trades. Unfortunately we can’t sign up all of them, so we look for like-minded businesses to partner with us. These businesses gain access to drug-free staff who hold Site Safe passports, have site experience and have developed a work ethic.”
During the workshop training days the trainees and the trainer are out of the high pressure project environment and are able to focus solely on learning and teaching - much easier than when you’re under the pump and on a strict deadline on a build project.
Chris believes it’s fundamental for the future of any successful business and vitally important to the industry and the economy to grow local people rather than looking offshore. It’s been of a concern to him to see young guys in the industry getting employed as hammer hands or journeymen who work without ambition and who aren’t learning the finer arts of construction. “If we can train people from a young age, teach them from scratch, we can develop some top level craftsmen rather than just run-of-the-mill carpenters,” he says. “Our Operations Coordinator, Lawrence Lokeni and I work on the programme, adding our own ideas. Then we pitched it to our MD who saw the potential and jumped at the opportunity to make it operational. We are very keen to monitor the progress of the individuals involved and see how successful they become and therefore how successful this programme is.”
Trainees, who are employed as casual labour throughout the twelve weeks, are taught an introduction to some of the most important and simpler aspects of working in the industry such as how to look after their gear, how to sharpen chisels and how to have a sense of pride in your work. Performance is monitored during the workshop learning days and by the supervisors they are outsourced to during the other four days of the week.
1st Steps is definitely not mainstream. It’s an outside-the-square initiative brought about by the dedication to craftsmanship of Chris and his team and their passion for seeing young people achieve and be the best they can be.
Chris encourages other industry partners to join together with them to share the benefits of this programme by making sure graduates are given the best possible opportunity for the future they deserve and also so that your business can benefit by taking on a well-initiated, enthusiastic young apprentice who already has a work ethic and sense of pride that matches your style.
Carpentry apprentices from across New Zealand are being called to show their skills and compete in the Registered Master Builders CARTERS 2017 Apprentice of the Year.
Kicking off on 10 April in Auckland, the Not Your Average Tradie Road Trip will see a group of talented BCITO apprentices spending four weeks visiting different regions, helping out community organisations, charities and schools with building woes.