FMB partner, Travis Perkins is sponsoring an ITV4 series to be aired in the spring, which documents an incredible project featuring a team of apprentice builders challenged to build a £225,000 house, on time, on budget and with no mistakes - in only 12 months.
Back in September 2010, Carlisle-based house builder, Story Group, along with their subcontractors, recruited around 20 apprentices aged between 17 and 27 for their new housing development at Magellan Park in Whitehaven. To successfully complete the yearlong challenge to build a house from scratch, each apprentice has had to be determined and willing to learn their trade quickly - to an exceptionally high standard; skills which would normally take three years to achieve.
On the gloomiest, coldest, wettest and foggiest day of the summer (yes, summer) I drove up the A1 and turned left at Scotch Corner to drive to Whitehaven, to meet the apprentices who are pushing themselves and their mentors hard to complete this inspiring challenge.
I was met by Paul McGill, Travis Perkins’ Regional Director, Dexter Routledge, Story Group’s Project Manager and Duncan Chisholm, Story Group’s Site Manager. They wanted me to see how the project was progressing and it also gave me the chance to talk to the team of young apprentices working on the house. I have brought up two boys and the memory of monosyllabic, sleepy teenagers is still etched so deeply that I fell into the trap of assuming that the young men I was about to meet at Whitehaven, given their ages, would probably be mute, at best they would grudgingly respond to my questions.
INSPECTING THE PLUMBING
They all took their training very seriously under the guidance of Duncan. Even at such an early stage in their construction careers, they could clearly see the route to long and successful working lives. The highlight for me, and something that proved beyond a shadow of doubt that these lucky young men were on the right track was when I had a wander about the house and opened an airing cupboard door to discover a pressurised water system, with what looked like the most complicated (to the untrained eye) set of copper pipes EVER. It was immaculate. I spoke to the apprentice responsible; he’d been asked to do the job, completed it perfectly and then set to and tiled a bathroom (immaculately!). He couldn’t understand why I was so overwhelmed, in his eyes he’d simply learned how to fit the system, fitted it, tested it and moved on – confident that he’d done a good job. That was another skill under his belt.
Site Manager, Duncan, who works with the apprentices day in day out, had an easy way of working with the lads, yes, they had fun and took the rip a bit, but the overwhelming impression I got was one of mutual respect. These apprentices are clearly there to do the best job they possibly can and Duncan knows how to get the best out of them. The year they spend working on this amazing challenge will set them up for life.
Duncan said: “We will do everything we can to give the apprentices the skills to enable them to build a quality, high specification property. But, I will never accept any compromise in standards.”
The TV show, which is being made by Brilliant Trees Media will follow the apprentices as they learn all aspects of house building including ground works, bricklaying, plastering, plumbing, electrics, joinery, roofing, scaffolding, tiling, painting/decorating and window installation.
Travis Perkins is sponsoring the TV programme and is supplying the project and Story Homes with all of their timber, floor joists, doors and bathroom products. Travis Perkins is hugely supportive of apprentices, having launched their own ‘Building People’ schemes this year and is very keen to raise awareness of the industry to potential young builders, and those interested in a career in merchanting, this was the main reason for sponsoring this programme.