Three local SME building contractors, Wharton Construction, McCarrick Construction and Vest Construction, stand to benefit from Northern Counties Builders Federation’s annual (NCBF) bursary scheme over the coming year.

The contribution to each company is on a sliding scale, amounting to £12,160.90 for each apprentice over a three-year period.

Now in its fourth year the bursary provides financial support for NCBF members towards the cost of taking on apprentices or for those who already have apprentices in training.  Members compete for the award each year. Entries close in July and the lucky recipients are notified in October.

Launched in 2018, so far nine apprentices from seven member companies are receiving support through the fund and with this year’s awards, a total of 12 students will have been supported.

The bursary is available for brickwork, joinery, stone masonry and other trades with support to L3 if appropriate.

This year, Tanis Scudder, from McCarrick Construction in Chester-le-Street is receiving funding for his joinery apprenticeship and attending New College Durham on day release.  He is very keen to stay with McCarrick once he is qualified and is already enjoying being able to mix the theory with the practical side of joinery.

Charlie Walker from Darlington-based Wharton Construction, is studying bricklaying with day release at Darlington College and Solomon Cornwell from Vest Construction is also training to be a joiner.

Commenting on his apprenticeship, Solomon said: “I have already been involved in a variety of jobs and learning different skills – from pipe boxing and re-hanging doors to working at The Chorister School in Durham where we were installing new fire doors and working around the historic decoration in the school building, which I really enjoyed. I like the prospect of working on heritage jobs.  You learn a lot.”

Speaking of his role, Charlie Walker said:  “My father was a bricklayer and I have always been keen to follow in his footsteps.  I have been working on six large garages for rent near to Darlington station.  I have only been here two months, but it is great learning the skills that I need on the job – then attending college for the theory.”

Gavin Vest, managing director of Vest Construction, said: “We are grateful and delighted to have received this bursary grant from NCBF and look forward to training the next generation of joiners who will commit to high standards throughout their careers.  It is essential that we do not lose these important skills.”

Tony Kay, President of NCBF said: “It gives us great pleasure to continue this bursary to offer opportunities to the next generation and of course, offer a lifeline to members who are just emerging from the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s important that as an industry we work together, as a team, to help us through this recovery phase and attract more young people to train in construction skills.  There continues to be a large skills gap with too few new recruits entering the industry, so while it represents a significant investment for NCBF, if we can provide some financial support, particularly in the early years of training when apprentice retention is most vulnerable, the industry benefits.”

Members of NCBF can find out more information about the bursary scheme by contacting  Heather Bradner at Classic Masonry heather@classicmasonry.co.uk