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‘Our craftsman train with Northampton College and they stay with us’

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Published in association with deliveringskills.co.uk

PLENTY of industries struggle to hang on to trained staff and the building sector in particular has an issue with staff retention. But Colonial Construction in Northampton finds that the apprentices they jointly train with Northampton College stay loyal to the business.

“It’s about getting the right people from the start,” says Colonial’s managing director Matt Bridge (pictured above).  “Before we take someone on for an apprenticeship, we get them in for a week on work experience to see if they’ve got the right attitude to the job and if they’re a good fit as a person.

“A lot of our apprentices start with us as labourers and then decide there’s a trade they want to learn. In both cases, the college is the ideal partner for us.”

Colonial has trained several apprentices in crafts such as carpentry and bricklaying with Northampton College. Tom was already working for the company as a labourer when he said he wanted to do an apprenticeship.

“He flew through it with the College’s help,” says Matt.  “He was working under another guy, Michael, who’d also done an adult apprenticeship with us a year before.  Tom was learning from someone who was hot off the press and he finished it in double-quick time so was earning his full carpenter’s wage very quickly.

“Within six or eight months he was looking after parts of jobs and now, just two years later, he’s running his own.  Pretty good for someone in their early 20s.

“I suspect, when I retire, he might take on my job too,” he laughs, “and I know the business would be in good hands.”

Matt says one of the most attractive things about working with Northampton College is the input the business has into the training and education the apprentices receive.  He says communication with the college is always smooth and quick, which helps to build the trust they have in them.

“We can always get hold of people if we need to. We’ve built strong relationships with the people who run the carpentry and bricklaying side of things.  They’re very approachable and they listen to what we want in terms of what apprentices are taught,” he says.

“Some of the big housebuilders want the work done fast rather than well but that’s the opposite of our approach.  The reputation around our brand is all about quality work and the college understands that and helps to instil it in the people we train.”

Matt says building the right workforce a business needs in order to be a success is all about making sure you’ve got the right kind of people in the first place and then supporting them to become really good at what they do.

“Construction isn’t about going into an office at nine and leaving at five,” he adds.  “We have to know that people who work for us have the attitude and the commitment to be on site at 7.30am or 8am,  with all their kit, ready to put in a hard day’s work.

“You need to find out if they’re enthusiastic and engaged. If you think they are that kind of person then it’s really worth investing the time and effort in them to get them properly trained to do things your way.  Our people who’ve done their apprenticeships with Northampton College learn how we like to do things at Colonial so we can feel confident when they’re out on site they’re representing the business.

“It’s about building a sustainable workforce who will stay with you.  If we look after them, they’ll look after us.”

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