For website 2Leading UK Demolition company Erith Contractors Ltd has joined forces with charitable initiative, Passion Project, to deliver a new standard in demolition apprenticeships and address the industry’s growing skills shortage.

Erith Contractors Ltd, a leading UK demolition company, has successfully seen the first intake of apprentices through their initial training and job placement as part of the Passion Project.   This new initiative is designed in collaboration with young people, and helps individuals identify a career that matches their interests. By using passion as the motivation for learning and development, the Passion Project inspires individuals to more clearly identify who they want to be in life as opposed to what they want to do.

The first intake of nine apprentices are all now at work on Erith Contractors Ltd sites across London and the South East and several have already achieved additional training standards as part of their pursuit of a career in demolition.  This is the culmination of a far-reaching and collaborative project that has involved Erith Contractors Ltd – a founding partner in the Passion Project – and both the Institute of Demolition Engineers (IDE) and the National Federation of Demolition Contractors (NFDC).

A New Approach

Erith’s Operations Director Stuart Accleton, who has been instrumental in the development of the programme, says that the scheme has been a truly collaborative effort.   “Erith was a founding partner in the Passion Project.   We are committed to attracting young people to our business and are constantly seeking fresh talent to keep pace with our ongoing expansion and to fuel future growth,” he says.   “But we could not have got this far without the support and assistance of the Institute of Demolition Engineers and the National Federation of Demolition Contractors.”

For website 1Accleton says that the IDE has committed its education budget to backing the project.   As further evidence of that commitment, IDE President Duncan Rudall personally delivered the first round of training.   “We initially took on two groups of 15 candidates that had been pre-approved by the Passion Project,” Accleton recalls.   “Duncan and I explained to them the opportunities available within the demolition industry and highlighted the challenges they might face in the industry.   We ended up with 10 candidates to carry forward although one more was forced to drop out at the last minute, leaving nine suitable candidates.”

Accleton says that the Passion Project approach differs greatly from the usual method of providing training for these young people.   “Anyone claiming unemployment benefit is encouraged to take training in a skill or vocation.   And many of our candidates had already been through construction and painting and decorating courses but had failed to find work when the training finished,” he says.  

This is a view echoed by each of the candidates.   “I studied plastering in college and received distinction after distinction,” says Passion Project participant Richard Samuel.   “But when the course ended, I didn’t know what path to take and I wasn’t having any luck finding work.”  

The Passion Project approach is different, according to Accleton.   “In addition to providing the necessary training, we were offering each of the lads three months’ paid work if they passed that training together with a two-year apprenticeship if they prove themselves suitable,” he adds.   “We have proved that demolition can do it different and do it better.”

Perfect Timing

The original thinking behind Erith involvement in this pilot project was that it would assist with the initial training before calling upon the NFDC to help place the successful candidates on sites across London.   As it transpired, this was not necessary.   “Erith Contractors Ltd had won some large-scale contracts in London, some of which stipulated the need to employ local people and apprentices,” Accleton says.   “So although some of the other NFDC members had already expressed an interest in taking on some of these lads, they all ended up going to work on Erith projects.”

Accleton says that the next intake – and he is aiming for three or four courses per year – will be made available to the wider demolition industry.   Furthermore, the Passion Project is in talks with the London boroughs to ensure that the nation’s capital has a pool of apprenticeship talent from which to draw.   Perhaps the ultimate proof of the success of this pilot project is that the participants themselves have already nominated four potential candidates for the next intake.

Power of Pre-Qualification

Accleton believes that a key to the success of the scheme is the early intervention of the Passion Project which works actively with Jobcentre Plus and the Probation Service to find suitable candidates.   “By the time our candidates reached us, they had already been through several interviews with the Passion Project and had proved that they had the right characteristics and credentials for a possible career in demolition,” he continues.   “Furthermore, if any of the candidates required assistance with literacy and numeracy, the Passion Project took care of that too.”

In addition to finding the most suitable candidates, this form of “pre-qualification” also helped fast-track the process of taking each young person from candidate to demolition worker.   “A key consideration for us was to get these guys to work quickly so that they could start to see a return on their commitment,” Accleton says.   “From the first interview with the Passion Project, through their training with the IDE and here at Erith, to their first day at work was just 12 weeks.”For website 3

If Erith is grateful to the Passion Project, then that feeling is more than reciprocated.   “From the moment Erith Contractors Ltd became involved, they have demonstrated a real commitment to helping these young people and to offering them a genuine path forward,” says Liz Obertelli, Head of Strategic Partnerships and Business Development for the Passion Project.  “The backing from the IDE and the NFDC has been vital in bringing this to fruition.”

With the first tranche of candidates now hard at work on Erith sites across London, Stuart Accleton already has high hopes for the Passion Project going forward.   “I have personally seen and benefitted from the career progression that is possible within the demolition industry,” Stuart Accleton concludes.   “There is no good reason why some of these lads can’t be site supervisors within a few years.   Within five years, they could be contracts managers.   It is early days but I am quietly confident that six or seven of the first intake of lads could go all the way.”

Author: Erith Group Ltd

The content of this article represents the personal views of the author and nothing is to be taken as representing the views, opinions, policy or position of any other persons or organisations mentioned herein or of The Institute of Demolition Engineers