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An apprentice’s story

July 11, 2011

Photo of AshleyAshley Smith is a BAM apprentice working on our new head office in Manchester. He joined the team in November 2010.

“I always wanted to be a plumber so when I left school I worked hard to get a job as a trainee. I was fortunate to find work with a local plumbing company, but after a couple of years the recession really hit hard and I was laid off,” he says.

The 21-year-old wasn’t put off by this experience of redundancy, despite it jeopardising his chances of an apprenticeship. In fact, it made him more determined. “I decided to go ahead with gaining an NVQ in plumbing anyway,” he says. “I looked for employment while learning and ended up stacking shelves for a local supermarket to help pay for my course. It wasn’t what I had in mind, I desperately wanted an apprenticeship, but at least I had a job.”

After Ashley completed his plumbing NVQ, the inspiration of his tutor led him to pursue a course in construction. “There were no jobs in plumbing around and I didn’t want to carry on stacking beans on shelves,” says Ashley, who wrote off to every local plumbing company in the region. “My tutor had a lot of confidence in me and suggested I expand my opportunities by looking at a course in building services.”

It was in his first few weeks at Stockport College that Ashley was introduced to BAM, which was looking for apprentices to work on The Co-operative’s site.

Tony Grindrod, Construction Manager, was impressed by Ashley’s determination and commitment to work. “The Co-operative is very keen on local employment, as we are,” he says.

“At the outset of the project we pledged to ensure that 8% of the site workforce are apprentices, either through direct employment or through working with our supply chain to facilitate apprenticeships."

Martyn Hulme, Managing Director, The Co-operative Estates, said: “To have as many as one in 12 of the workforce as apprentices is a higher than average ratio for a construction site of this nature but we were determined that our new head office should help create job opportunities for local people.”

Tony explains that: "Ashley’s attitude to work, and his hunger for it, was refreshing. We could see straight away that he wasn’t work-shy. He’s a great lad and fits really well into the team.”

Ashley’s week involves around 42 hours at BAM, 11 hours at college and a further ten hours a week of home study.

With Ashley putting in over 60 hours a week in training and learning, it is clear that apprenticeships aren’t an easy route into construction. “It’s hard work,” he says. “But it’s all worth it. I feel privileged to have this apprenticeship which makes me even more determined to succeed, and I couldn’t have wished for a better project and people to be learning from.

“When I was offered the apprenticeship it was one of the best days of my life. I was desperate to get a start in construction and finally my wait was over. I can now see a future, I’m actually where I want to be.”

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