The boss of bespoke painting and decorating service, S Nicholson and Sons, is calling for a change in attitude to apprenticeships as he struggles to recruit much-needed trainees.
Stephen Nicholson, managing director of the Bishop Auckland-based firm, believes that many young people are shunning trade apprenticeships for jobs where they can keep their hands clean and wear business attire.
In some cases, school leavers are not being told about the option and benefits of training for a trade during careers advice, according to recent research.
Mr Nicholson, who is currently looking top recruit two apprentices, says that in the past youngsters from local schools and colleges were queuing up to apply, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract trainees.
He said: “Attitudes towards careers have vastly altered in recent times and many don’t want to get their hands dirty or wear overalls and many wrongly think that an office-based, suit-wearing job pays better, but this is often not the case.
“I’m sure people would change their minds about apprenticeships if they were made more aware of the advantages, including being able to earn as you learn, combining theoretical education with on-the-job experience and gaining industry-recognised qualifications.
“In fact, apprenticeships can pave the way to a very successful, lucrative and satisfying career.”
His stance is backed up by the head of Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), who has pledged that it make it easier for teenagers to apply for apprenticeships in a bid to tackle the “outdated stigma” of vocational qualifications.
A recent study by the universities admissions service revealed that a third of pupils at schools and half in colleges said they were not told about apprenticeships. Only eight per cent of students surveyed associated apprenticeships with good jobs.
Clare Marchant, UCAS chief executive, said: “More needs to be done to shake off the outdated stigma or misplaced snobbery associated with apprenticeships, given they are a great start to any career.”
S Nicholson and Sons, a family-run firm, has a solid track record in training workers of the future, but has found it particularly difficult recently to recruit two apprentices to its team.
Stephen, who set the firm up in 2008, is a staunch supporter of apprenticeships. He added. “Our company takes great pride passing on our traditional painting and decorating skills to the next generation.
People always will need buildings decorated, particularly for specialist restoration and heritage projects, so any apprentices we train have the potential of a long and fulfilling career.”
The firm is experiencing a burgeoning order book as pent-up demand for home improvements has been triggered by the easing of lockdown restrictions and people opting to improve rather than move due to spiralling house prices.
It specialises in the restoration of heritage and listed buildings, including Raby Castle, Rockliffe Hall and Hallgarth Manor.