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Competitions reveal the industry’s strengths

3 mins

Construction as an industry may struggle to recruit young people, yet our recent competition shows that roofing can not only attract young people but also inspire them, says Paul Campbell, BMI’s Marketing and Technical Director.

Blake Edgell NFRC Young Roofer of the Year

The recent NFRC Young Roofer of the Year award sponsored by BMI UK and Ireland was a healthy reminder that the trade attracts people with talent, commitment and initiative. The shortlist of entries also showed that competitions such as SkillBuild and the BMI Apprentice of the Year are encouraging and rewarding those with skill and ambition.

Blake Edgell (pictured), the winner of the very first NFRC Young Roofer of the Year, illustrates these points very well. Blake won for a number of reasons—he not only completed his NVQ course ahead of schedule, but he also took on extra training courses and worked overtime at weekends and in the evening.

Blake’s example shows that young people have a strong work ethic and that roofing is an attractive option—not everyone wants to work in an office or with computers. He works for J Randall Roofing Contractors in South Wales, who put him forward for the award. Operations Manager, Monique Jones, helped nominate Blake and noted that “outside work is not for everyone, and can bring difficult days”. That’s nicely put and an observation that roofing offers a rewarding career and the opportunity to run your own business to those who prefer to work with their hands and work outdoors.

It’s a point that’s echoed in all the shortlisted entries for Young Roofer, which provide examples of how roofing can attract young people of character. Oliver Drew, for instance, now works for Hodgson Sayers and is in his third year of his flat roofing apprenticeship. Still only in his 20s, Oliver is now entering a second career after being in the Army. As a member of the Scots Guards his five years of service included ceremonial duties at Buckingham Palace and working as part of a reconnaissance and snipers’ platoon.

I love working outdoors and I like hard work,” he says. “It’s great to work hard and then see an end-product when you finish a roof. You’ve got something to show for it.

Roofing has proved to be the career and the opportunity that these apprentices were looking for. Some were unemployed and others working in casual jobs before they came into roofing

Oliver was shortlisted in the 2018 BMI Apprentice of the Year competition, an accomplishment shared by other entrants such as Leon Fletcher and Jordan Condren. But making the shortlist for such an award brings more than a little encouragement—it promotes confidence and pride in your workmanship.

Jordan, for instance, won a silver medal at the Worldskills UK in the three-day roof slating and tiling competition. His tutor Alan Bessford at Newcastle College said that Jordan jumped at the chance to compete thanks to what he learned at his training and the BMI Apprentice of the Year final in 2018.

All these competition entrants show that the best of our apprentices have an appetite for learning and are prepared to work hard to achieve their goals. Several completed their NVQs well ahead of schedule—up to six months in a couple of cases—while others took on extra courses to improve their knowledge of construction and related subjects such as health and safety. One entrant even worked as a roofer in his spare time on community projects.

Roofing has proved to be the career and the opportunity that these apprentices were looking for. Some were unemployed and others working in casual jobs before they came into roofing through work experience and realised what the trade could offer. Even though most are only in their early 20s, they are already talking about considering their prospects as managers, self-employed roofers and leading their own team of roofers.

Yet we must acknowledge that there is a skills shortage in building trades generally, and in roofing particularly. Recent research by the Federation of Master Builders reported that 46 per cent of small and medium-sized firms found difficulties in hiring roofers, while a report from CIOB claims that the sector needs to find 157,000 new recruits by 2021 to keep up with demand.

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