Apprentice of the Year 2017 – Encouraging Youngsters into the Roofing Industry
The roofing industry is currently experiencing the swift emergence of new technologies and regulations while featuring intense competition that shows no signs of lessening any time soon which has resulted in a rapidly changing environment that’s being hampered by a severe skills shortage. The industry faces the challenge of recruiting a massive 700,000 new workers to replace those who are retiring or moving on. To add to the challenge, if the government wants to achieve its target of building a million new homes here in the UK by 2020, we’ll need to attract a further 120,000 workers into the industry.
We’re now facing the fact that we need to make the roofing industry more attractive to youngsters and other school leavers if we want to avoid a crisis in housing. Research shows that the most common reason most people choose roofing as a career is that they have family or friends in the business. This means that we desperately need to encourage others into roofing in order for the industry to thrive and provide the UK with the necessary housing in future.
One way of doing this is to step up the efforts being made by the trade, manufacturers, distributors and associations to present the industry in a more positive light. Roofing work is risky, we won’t dispute that – falls from height remain one of the main causes of fatal injuries in the workplace here in the UK. Of the 144 fatal injuries in 2015 – 2016, 37 cases involved a fall from height, that’s just over a quarter of all deaths. What’s more, the majority of those 37 fatal falls, 18 of them occurred in the construction sector, 7 in agriculture, forestry and fishing and the other 4 in manufacturing.
The industry has several initiatives in place to address the skills shortage, one of which is the Apprentice of the Year Competition (and – no, it’s nothing to do with Donald Trump!). This year saw the launch of this competition with entrants tested and judged, not just on their ability to work on a roof, but on all round abilities, including business skills to determine whether they have what it takes to run their own business eventually.
This year’s Competition was won by Joe Stradling from Somerset, with a Highly Commended Award created for Tom Knight from Cornwall to acknowledge just how close the competition was. Both youngsters enjoyed taking part and found the competition rewarding as well as challenging. Joe said it took him out of his comfort zone while Tom could see that it would further their careers in the long term, boosting not only his skills, but his self-confidence too. They also gained some of the skills they’ll need to launch their own businesses in the future.
The competition was designed not only to teach roofing skills, but also to identify and encourage future industry leaders. Those who took part in the competition were given a great insight into estimating, fault finding and working as a team to produce a business plan, great skills to learn for budding roofing company owners.