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Thursday, 18 December 2014

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Company takes to the road to advise students

WEST Cumbrian students got a rare insight into the construction industry this month thanks to a local building company.

Workington firm Stobbarts Ltd visited students across the area to promote apprenticeships in the industry as part of National Apprenticeship Week.

First stop was Lillyhall’s Lakes College where students quizzed the professionals about the ins and outs of the industry to find out what a career with the firm would be like.

Steve Stalker, health and safety manager at Stobbarts, said: “A lot of these students are on engineering-related courses at the college already and speaking to us is giving them a chance to get a real insight into the sector and the job. Some of them don’t know where to go after college so we have been giving them advice on that.

“All the interest and questions so far have been on the obvious – pay and the exact work that’s involved. But some of them have wanted information on how to apply for a construction apprenticeship.

“At Stobbarts we take on around six or seven apprentices every year so we have been offering advice about our company. We take on apprentices who have a host of trades, from bricklayers to plumbers.”

Almost half of Stobbarts’ workforce is based on site at Sellafield and the company is always looking for new blood, according to Chris Thompson, who also works in health and safety at the firm.

“Our workforce is 100 per cent Cumbrian – something we pride ourselves on greatly,” he said. “We are always looking for new recruits to inject new skills into the company and in turn it is rejuvenating the business.

“I have spoken to a lot of interested students today who have wanted to know the various opportunities there is in this industry.”

Steve said the nature of the apprenticeships offered through Stobbarts mean young people come away with a solid base of skills, not just one.

“Using our close links with Lakes College, we have been able to see a great deal of students and forewarn them that we will start our official application process in May,” Steve said.

Barry Blackwood, of construction skills provider, CITB, was also on-hand to discuss detailed information about apprenticeships with the students.

Marc Holliday, 17, of St Bees, is an apprentice bricklayer with Stobbarts and he took part in the drop-in to offer first-hand experience of life as a Stobbarts apprentice.

He said: “Prospective apprentices don’t often have the chance to speak to those already doing it and in the industry. I have loved every minute of my training so far so I wanted to get that across to other students.”

Later on in the week, the Stobbarts tour stopped off at Workington’s St Joseph’s Catholic School and Whitehaven’s St Benedict’s Catholic High School to talk to students in year 11 who might want to apply for apprenticeships with the firm after they finish their GCSEs.

Around 100 pupils got the chance to speak to the professionals and ask questions about how to get into the industry.

Steve said: “Stobbarts maintains very close links with local schools and the visit was about giving us a chance to speak to the students directly. We often have pupils from St Joseph’s School and St Benedict’s School starting on apprenticeships with us.

“The talk was organised in line with National Apprenticeship Week and we brought along two apprentices currently training with us to offer their advice.”

Barry Blackwood said: “There are no minimum qualification requirements for a construction apprenticeship but it is important to point out to students that there are so many opportunities in the industry.

“The Stobbarts representatives here all started out on the shop floor but have worked their way up into management positions and these opportunities are there for the likes of St Joseph’s and St Benedict’s students.”

As part of the visit, Stobbarts employees took typical clothing that would be worn on one of its sites and modelled it on 15-year-old student Matthew Johnson.

Matthew said: “It’s been really interesting to know exactly what’s involved in the construction industry.

“I am really serious about doing an apprenticeship so listening to the advice from Barry was really useful.

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