Since featuring on the very first cover of Total Contractor magazine, Tom Knight – Highly Commended in the BMI Apprentice of the Year 2017 – has continued to have great success in his roofing career. Total Contractor met up with him on a site near Truro for a chat…
“What I remember most about the competition is the Q&A sessions”, says Tom, recalling his success in the 2017 Apprentice of the Year. “It was a great chance to talk to trusted people in roofing – like Andy King (of A L King Roofing and then President of the NFRC), Simon Dixon and Gary Walpole (both also from the NFRC). They have fantastic experience and expertise to share, which has really helped guide me in my roofing career.”
It wasn’t the only stand out part of the experience for Tom. “The section on estimating was brilliant. It’s been a real help to me when it comes to quoting. The fault-finding session was also great, especially when it comes to repair jobs and when you’re the one that has to identify the issues.”
Prior to entering the roofing industry, Tom was a chef after leaving college. But the pay and long, anti-social hours meant it wasn’t for him. Having been offered a labouring job in roofing, Tom found himself enjoying the work and with a knack for the trade.
Consequently, his employer supported Tom in his career and provided him with the opportunity for an apprenticeship and to become a skilled worker. It was an opportunity he seized with both hands and – following his training on the job and with Alan Lander of RoofTrain in Exeter – his talent blossomed, winning South West SkillBuild as well as placing highly in the BMI competition.
Having qualified, Tom continued to spend time honing his skills with his employer and broadening his roofing experience with his builder uncle. He then took the opportunity to start his own business, with a newly financed van and support in the shape of his father – a very positive time as Tom says he was a “massive help early on”. Following his father’s final retirement (he’d tried before!), Tom then teamed up with mate Jack Newton – himself a national SkillBuild finalist in 2015 – with whom he works to this day.
Once again, another key area of focus for businesses which Tom hadn’t really thought about prior to the event, came to the fore in the BMI competition: “I am really conscious of the need for marketing, and it’s something we work hard at,” says Tom. “I’m proud of our website and promote our business through Yell. It’s our main review platform, and we get a lot of work out of it.”
Tom’s not wrong: his is the most, and best, reviewed business in his category in the Truro area, and dozens of former customers aren’t shy in singing his praises. “It’s also very motivational. When jobs aren’t going well or there are other problems, like Covid, it’s a booster to drop onto the site and read the reviews. We also make sure any Google reviews feed into it as well, so we’re covered all ways.”
This superb word-of-mouth and engaged approach to marketing means that Tom has six months of work booked ahead of him. Current goals then are to maintain the business at a consistent level post-pandemic – and get to New Zealand.
Tom was married in 2017, and the big dream was to travel to New Zealand in 2020 so his wife Kioni could meet up with her NZ relatives for the first time. “We had the tickets and everything – and then Covid came along. At least we got our money back, and at least we’ve been able to work outdoors ever since the lockdowns, which was a result.”
Competition and confidence
In summarising his thoughts about the BMI Apprentice of the Year competition, Tom says, “We all got a lot out of the competition, which was more like a two-day course. It really boosted my confidence, and I learnt a lot from the knowledge sharing. I’d recommend entering to anyone.”
BMI Apprentice of the Year 2021 – how to enter:
This year’s competition – following a break in 2020 owing to Covid – opened for entries on September 1st 2021 and welcomes all those recognised as an apprentice by their employer, or those working towards qualified status.
Closing date for entries is October 1st.
Entrants selected for the final, which takes place on the 17th and 18th November at the BMI Academy in Gloucestershire, will receive coaching on a range of topics including presentation skills, health and safety, estimating and making technical assessments.
Enter the Pitched Roofing event here.
Enter the Flat Roofing event here.