North East Connected

Specialist commercial decorator takes on six apprentices

CaptureA North East commercial painting and decorating firm that has transformed the appearance of the regions offices, industrial units, hospitals and schools is now taking on a teaching role itself after recruiting six apprentices.

Blyth-based F Southern Ltd, which has a staff of 30, is expanding to cope with an increasing demand from commercial clients in the public and private sector. The business has chosen the apprenticeship route for growth to train the next generation of staff for the family-owned firm.

In the last three years, F Southern Ltd has decorated more than 1,000 student bedrooms in Newcastle’s new accommodation blocks and has carried out the first year’s maintenance package on the scheme. Other major projects completed recently include Industrial & Marine Painting at the Port of Blyth and maintenance painting at Wansbeck Hospital in Ashington.

But the family-run firm has also a well-deserved reputation for its work in the educational sector. Its first major contract after being set up by Frank Southern in 1978 was to paint Princess Louise Road School in Blyth and the education sector has become a core part of the business ever since.

Commercial Director Paul Novell, who joined the company in 2012, said:

“It’s interesting how the business started in education and we’ve now come full circle with six apprentices of our own. Education is still a primary activity for the business after all these years and our work culture and ethos is all about the personal development of our staff like one of our newest recruits, Kai Burn.

“Kai joined us as a painting apprentice from Bede Academy and very quickly we saw his potential and now we’ve given him the opportunity to grow with the business as our first ever trainee Quantity Surveyor. He is studying for a BTEC level 3 in construction and he’s also taken his level 2 in painting with us. He’s a real asset to the team.”

Kai, 17, along with the company’s other apprentices, receives his training hands-on at work and also studies part-time at college. The apprentices learn not only about painting and decorating, but also about building methods and construction technology and the all-important safety on the job.

Managing Director, Stephen Southern, son of founder Frank, said: “My dad’s retired now and he’s really proud of what we’re achieving and how the business is growing for the future with a new generation of young staff.

“But Dad still comes in to give us advice and even does the odd job here and there.”

F Southern started as a home-based business with Frank painting and his wife Susan working as secretary but it now operates from a large warehouse and depot in Blyth’s Riverside Court. The firm’s reputation for quality work has won it contracts around the UK as well as the North East.

Stephen said: “We’re delighted to be expanding and providing work for more local young people. We’re coming up to 40 years in the business and we’re looking forward to further growth over the next few years.”

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