Derek ‘Del Boy’ Graham established his building firm, Graham and Kimber, 35 years ago. Since then, the Warminster-based business has had a number of apprentices. Del Boy likes to bring in new employees as casual labourers before deciding whether they have a future with Graham and Kimber:
“I started to take on apprentices because I had a lad working for me who was obviously a good lad and I knew it would help him to have a trade. It worked out really well so I decided to carry on with a new apprentice each year. We start lads off and if they seem to have the right credentials we’ll put them through an Apprenticeship.
“Most of my boys have been really good. One of them, a lad called Alex Lapham, has been qualified for about three years now. He’s a carpenter and he did his three-year Apprenticeship at Trowbridge College.”
Because it’s a small business, Del Boy likes his apprentices to get a good general grounding in construction skills, although they each choose their own area of expertise:
“We’ve got a lad this year who’s specialising in bricklaying but he’ll learn everything. That’s mainly because we do everything! He’ll learn plastering, a bit of a bit of carpentry, roofing – all of it. Most of the lads can do a bit of everything, which is good because they get the paperwork for whatever trade they eventually want.”
This year, Del Boy will receive the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers of 16 to 24-year-olds (AGE). The AGE grant is awarded by The National Apprenticeship Service (NAS) to employers whose Apprenticeship schemes meet NAS criteria. It’s worth £1,500 per apprentice and each business can claim it for up to ten apprentices while the initiative is in place. Training provider Wiltshire College is helping Del Boy to claim the grant:
“A guy from Wiltshire College rang me up and said I was entitled to the AGE grant and he’s put the wheels in motion. I’ve not had it before but for a small business it will help with the cash flow.”
Del Boy’s apprentices are given the choice of completing two or three-year Apprenticeships. During their first year they attend college two days a week. In the second and third years they attend college just one day a week.
Although the overall length of the Apprenticeships is set, Del Boy has found that the colleges have been very accommodating and helped his apprentices to get the most from their practical work experience:
“They’re pretty good at the colleges. There have been times when we’ve had particularly interesting work on and they’ve let the boys come to work rather than attend classes. For instance, we were doing some unusual work in a church and I wanted my carpenter to be there on-site as it was great experience for him.”
At Graham and Kimber, Apprenticeships have provided a route to building a strong, skilled workforce. Del Boy has been able to offer young lads viable, worthwhile opportunities and, ultimately, the chance to begin fruitful careers:
“When I took Alex on he was on his way to university. He was just filling time during the summer but he liked it so much he asked if I’d take him on full-time and put him through an Apprenticeship. He’s a clever lad so I thought it would be a good decision – and it has been!”