Rhino Building Supplies, Acle are very proud to be associated with East Anglia Brickwork Ltd in their drive to support young people wishing to begin a career in the construction industry as apprentice bricklayers. Darren Critchlow, Director of East Anglia Brickwork Ltd, Zoe Gabriele of Rhino and Gary Smith the onsite apprenticeship teacher & mentor met for a chat about their exciting new apprenticeship programme.
So tell us a bit about the apprenticeship programme:
I wanted to bring in qualified brickwork teachers willing to work on a live site mentoring and laying bricks/blocks alongside apprentices. We have set up the programme based on 4/5 apprentices with 3 or 4 bricklaying mentors onsite.
We plan to build the programme each year – adding 4/5 apprentices. The apprenticeship is 2 years training to achieve the new brickwork standard level 2 which has taken the place of the old NVQ level 2 qualification. The training is all on site and the benefit of having a qualified bricklaying teacher is that the theory work can also take place onsite. This means that on wet days when they are unable to work onsite – they will then use the onsite classroom for theory – allowing the apprentices to utilise the good weather days to polishing up their practical skills.
We are keen to expand into multiple programmes and to do this we are looking for:
- Brickwork Teacher – willing to teach theory on the wet days and work hands on mentoring and laying bricks alongside the apprentices on dry days. This position will be full time employment with bonuses for each apprentice that achieves qualification of the programme.
- Bricklayer Mentor – willing to work hands on mentoring and laying bricks alongside the apprentices. The benefit to this is that they will be able to pass on knowledge and watch the apprentices develop into a quality bricklayer with all the key principles to improve our industry. This is a full time, self-employed position with bonuses for each apprentice that achieves qualification of the programme.
- Apprentices – Anyone of any age keen to pursue a career in brickwork. The programme accommodates up to 6 months paid trial period before committing to the full-time employed apprenticeship. This is basically up to a 6-months probation period where they will learn labouring and basic brickwork skills. This allows us to get to know the candidate and the candidate can get a good feel for the company and our principles. The apprenticeship is fulltime employment for 2 years with the opportunity to progress as a bricklayer with East Anglia Brickwork Ltd.
(This was the first day on site)!
Why did you want to do this and include mentors to bring along new people?
“Gary Smith our Teacher on site worked training apprentices at RG Carters Academy for 15 years and I was trained by him when I completed my apprenticeship at RG Carter. I hold the same passion as Gary for helping people who are passionate about the trade I love. I also like the fact that we have created an opportunity for the more experienced bricklayer to become a mentor and not worry about having to lay a quota of brick or block to make their days money. It’s a great option to put less stress on their body and mentor the apprentices who will in turn cover the quotas to make the programme works on a financial basis – making this programme sustainable ” – Darren
“Darren is now running a successful brickwork contracting company and providing work for approx. 45 bricklayers and for that I am really proud and happy to be involved in this idea working as a mentor for these apprentices.” – Gary
“I always wanted to be a bricklayer when I was young but I struggled to get an apprenticeship. At that time I was taken on by RG Carter and completed my NVQ L3. These days it has all changed and classed as a brickwork standard L2. I enjoy seeing others progress and do well and in my experience investing time into development and training can only be for the good. It does give a certain amount of loyalty but even if the guys when they finish move on to work for others or start their own business or move away we would have done our bit to help improve the industry” – Darren
“The apprentices I met on site at the time of my visit all seemed keen to learn and be involved. Cameron told me that East Anglia Brickwork were the last people he tried and was starting to lose hope as every previous phone call had said they were not taking on apprentices” – Zoe
What is a key benefit to this type of apprenticeship programme?
“Darren and Gary both told me that they both recognised that even with the apprenticeships it was a challenge to spend time to observe the proper skills without designated mentors. With some apprenticeship schemes the apprentice would be sent away off site to college and taught there but apart from photographs it was hard to get a feel of the flair or competency of the individual. Training and working alongside the apprentice’s day in day out was so much easier and brings about lots of positives. We personally and strongly believe this is the best type of apprenticeship to offer in brickwork”
Does the programme run every day?
“In the trade when you are faced with wet days as a bricklayer often you have to pack up but the beauty of this scheme is we can now do theory work in a designated classroom based on site resulting in them continuing their learning and maximising the weather issues we face in our trade.” – Gary
“On the site I visited this is still work in progress as they intend to include a covered area just outside the classroom to allow for practice sessions. I spoke with my cement supplier Southern Cement who were also happy to get involved and offered a free pallet of cement to assist with the course.” – Zoe
Can most building methods be covered in this way?
“Definitely, for example in Norfolk there is a preference for Flint work in many areas of the county but finding someone who is able to train people in how to do this can be problematic. We have some great flint layers in our company. We often have flintwork projects which we can include within the programme – this is where the mentors can help and it gives the apprentices a broader range of experiences which they can then draw upon throughout their careers.” – Darren
Has there been any help to you in setting this up?
The opportunity for funding via Government Schemes is there now in regard to apprenticeships but there has been some setting up costs. Rhino have offered to help us to communicate what we are doing and support us with materials. We have set up a container on site as our classroom and fully furnished it, providing full toolkits for the apprenticeships. We also employ quality officers which a lot of other contractors do not provide because we recognise that the quality of our work needs to be good. Our aim has always been to be the best brickwork contractor we can be and create a great working environment with a team feel. Now our aim has grown to train and create the best bricklayers in our area for EAB and our industry.” – Darren
What would you say to anyone who may be interested in getting involved?
“I would say drop me a line. I think there are a lot of willing people out there who may not have considered this type of career but want to work hard and gain a qualification – this is a huge opportunity for you. I also really encourage mentors and trainers who are keen to pass on what they know and are genuinely interested in training others to get in touch. The most important piece of this programme is the mentors – the programme doesn’t work without mentors. We are able to employ you on a full time basis or on a self employed basis and we really need your level of expertise. My email address is email@example.com” – Darren
Due to covid and holidays we have Mick (mentor) and Lukas (apprentice) missing from this photo the day I visited.
From left to right – Gary (Brickwork teacher and mentor), Jay (2021 apprentice), Me Zoe😊, Luke (2021 apprentice), Cameron (2021 apprentice) and Jason (mentor)
2021 Apprentice cohort, left to right, Cameron, Jay, Lukas and Luke.