It’s clear that the generation of roofing apprentices currently going through the roof training groups are going to be operating in a much-changed working environment with new challenges for them as roofers – and possibly future business owners – as roofing and the wider construction sector adapts to changes brought on, in the main, by the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
This crop of apprentices is probably the first coming through at a time when the spotlight will really be on them in terms of working practices and the way they interact with end users and other trades. That’s because RoofCERT, the NFRC and CITB’s accreditation programme which aims to professionalise and elevate the roofing sector as a whole by providing individual roofers with visible proof of their roofing skills to homeowners and end users is well underway. This is quite possibly the single biggest change to roofing and once up and running will have a huge impact on the sector. In the main, RoofCERT’s goal is to up-skill the individual and improve the sector’s image, whether that be in the eyes of customers or in terms of attracting new talent to roofing.
And that’s where the BMI Apprentice of the Year competition fits nicely with the current push to ensure operatives have both the practical skills and the ability to interact in a professional manner with customers.
Now in its third year, the BMI Apprentice of the Year competition has really established itself as a key date in the roofing calendar, bringing together both flat and pitched roofing finalists from roof training colleges throughout the UK for two-days of competition.
Whilst the competition has grown, the tried and trusted format has stayed very much the same with sessions on presentational skills, establishing and marketing a business, health and safety, and culminating in the crucial defects challenge and final presentation to judges. These last two sections are where the apprentices get the chance to really put into action all they’ve learned over the previous two days. And it’s no good just having the technical knowledge and practical skills; yes, these are vital, but crucially the apprentices are also scored on their ability to interact with the customer – how they convey their messages, put the customer at ease and build trust. For example, on the defects challenge section, flat and pitched roofing rigs are set up with a number of deliberate mistakes for the finalists to consider.
The apprentices are then given time to assess the rigs, note the defects and the impact they would have on the customer’s roof, but then they have to talk the judges – who play the role of ‘customer’ for this challenge – through the defects, any remedial work to be undertaken and answer any questions the ‘customer’ may have. This is where Oscar Miller, winner of the flat roofing Apprentice of the Year 2019, who is a student at Leeds College of Building and employed by Grimsby-based The Roofing Corporation, really excelled. He combined a very strong practical knowledge of the defects but crucially was able to talk the judges through the issues, the impact they would have on the roof and the best options for rectification in a structured manner that would build trust with a customer who has just fallen foul of poor workmanship, and is set to spend a considerable amount on remedial works.
Again, this ticks the boxes for many of the goals at the heart of RoofCERT.
Having spoken to the pitched roofing judges, this is where Matthew Ford, winner of the pitched roofing Apprentice of the Year 2019, who also attends Leeds College of Building and works for housing association Incommunities, set himself apart from the competition also.
New skills and better equipped
Despite there being two winners and two highly commended awards – which went to Connor Pringle, who is enrolled at Bolton College and works for the Manchester Building Company, in the flat roofing competition, and Tyler Pedrick, who works for Avonside and studies at Eastern Region Roof Training Group, in the pitched roofing competition – all the finalists will have learned new skills and will be better equipped to deal with the challenges their careers will throw at them going forward. Many will also have found new levels of confidence that perhaps they didn’t know they had, and that confidence is built up over the duration of the two days. The competition, alongside the support of their tutors and employers, also gives the finalists a clearer idea of where they can take their roofing career.
Listening to the judges like Dr Ronan Brunton, Technical Manager at the Single Ply Roofing Association, Gary Walpole, Health & Safety Officer at the NFRC, Steve Revell, President of the NFRC and Owner of Skyline Roofing Group, who all have vast experience of various levels of management at businesses and associations throughout the roofing supply chain, the finalists can’t fail to be inspired about where their career might be progress to. Where many may have viewed roofing as just a job at the beginning of the two days, most will have left feeling new pride in their chosen career.
The competition was one of the things
Just look at the example of this year’s pitched roofing judge Ceiran Peel-Price, himself a finalist in the Apprentice of the Year competitions 2017 & 2018. Ceiran now runs Peel-Price Construction and gave an inspiring talk on what he’d learned and the challenges of starting up a business. As Ceiran previously told Total Contractor: “The competition taught me a lot and was one of the things that encouraged me to set up my own business. It also taught me the value of quality training.” What better testimonial could the BMI Apprentice of the Year ask for than a former finalist returning as a judge having established his own roofing business, who also recognises the value in continued development and training? Now it’s over to this year’s finalists to see where their careers can take them…