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The Corporation

Posted: 02/11/11

Apprentices helping council bring empty properties back on market

Council houses that become vacant in Mansfield are being given a new lease of life, thanks to local apprentices.

Safety Plus Construction Ltd – a subsidiary of West Nottinghamshire College – and Mansfield District Council have struck a deal to provide young people with employment and training opportunities by carrying out repairs to selected vacant properties.

Safety Plus apprentices are transforming two council houses a month on a rolling basis – carrying out a range of repairs, such as fitting new kitchens and doors if required, plus painting and decorating.

Teenagers Tristan Wilson, Conner Doyle and Connor Trench are the first trainees to take part in the scheme after being employed by the Mansfield-based construction firm on 18-month contracts.

The company has launched a flexible apprenticeship scheme to provide local 16-19 year-olds with employment opportunities while tackling a shortage of apprentices in the construction industry, which has been hit hard by the economic downturn.

It aims to recruit a further seven apprentices in the coming months, who will have the opportunity to work on the empty council properties once Tristan, 16, Conner, 17, and Connor, 18, progress on to other jobs.

The new recruits will also enjoy placements with local construction companies; as Connor is currently doing before he returns to the council house repair scheme.

Simon Meadows, construction manager at Safety Plus Construction, said: “This is a revolutionary way of getting more apprentices into the construction industry and preserving the future of our local skills and trades.

“We’re creating pathways into employment and growing our talent pool by giving young people the practical work experience to secure sustainable jobs.

“We’re grateful to the authority for giving local apprentices the opportunity to supplement the work of its own housing repairs team in repairing empty properties while gaining the skills to cement careers in the construction industry.”

Tristan was referred to Safety Plus by the Mansfield Connexions Centre, while Conner, a former plumbing student at the college, and Connor, who studied joinery there, were both referred by the National Apprenticeship Service.

They are each working towards a maintenance operations apprenticeship – a multi-skilled qualification that includes roofing, joinery, bricklaying, tiling, painting and decorating.

Mr Meadows insisted the council, as one of the district’s largest employers, was setting an excellent example for other businesses to follow.

“We’re hoping local construction firms embrace this opportunity to take on an apprentice on a flexible basis, and enjoy the benefits that an enthusiastic and ambitious trainee will bring to their business,” he said.

“We recognise some contractors, particularly smaller ones, are reluctant to commit to employing an apprentice during the present economic climate.

“Our apprenticeship scheme offers a solution whereby the trainee gains valuable work experience in the construction industry and a multi-skilled qualification, coupled with secure employment with Safety Plus.”

Executive Mayor, Tony Egginton, said: “I am delighted that this programme has progressed and the council can provide real-time job experience to supplement the apprenticeship training scheme.

"We are all aware of the difficulties facing young people, along with the difficulties of construction firms to have the capacity to facilitate taking on apprentices.  This partnership is working hand-in-hand to address these issues where possible.

“The bonus is that the properties being worked on are returned back into rentable council accommodation.”