The new initiative is designed in collaboration with young people, and helps them identify a career to match their interests.

The first nine apprentices are all now at work on Erith Contractors sites across London and the south east of England, and several have already achieved additional training standards in demolition.

This is the culmination of a far-reaching and collaborative project that has involved Erith and both the Institute of Demolition Engineers (IDE) and the National Federation of Demolition Contractors (NFDC).

“Erith was a founding partner,” said operations director Stuart Accleton.

“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.

“But we could not have got this far without the support and assistance of the NFDC and IDE, which committed its education budget to the project.”

Stuart said that the Passion Project approach is very different from usual methods of training 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.”

This is echoed by the candidates.

One of the candidates, Richard Samuel, said: “I studied plastering in college and received distinction after distinction.

“But when the course ended, I didn’t know what path to take and I wasn’t having any luck finding work.”

This, said Stuart, is where the Passion Project is different: “As well as providing the necessary training, we were offering each of the lads three months of paid work if they passed that training, together with a two-year apprenticeship if they prove suitable.”

The original thinking behind Erith’s involvement was that it would assist with the initial training before calling upon the NFDC to help place successful candidates on sites across London, but this was not necessary.

“We had won some large-scale contracts in London, some of which stipulated the need to employ local people and apprentices. So they all ended up going to work on Erith projects.”

Stuart said the next intake – 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 give the capital a pool of apprenticeship talent.

Stuart believes key to the scheme’s success is the intervention of the Passion Project, which works 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 and had proved that they had the right characteristics and credentials for a possible career in demolition. If any of the candidates required assistance with literacy and numeracy, the Passion Project took care of that too.”

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. From the first interview, through training with the IDE and here at Erith to their first day at work was just 12 weeks.”

Liz Obertelli, head of strategic partnerships and business development for the Passion Project, added: “Since Erith became involved, they have demonstrated a real commitment to offering these young people and to offering them a genuine path forward.The backing from the IDE and the NFDC has been vital.”

Stuart Accleton concluded: “I have personally seen and benefitted from the career progression that is possible within the demolition industry. 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.

This article is taken from the July-August 2016 issue of Demolition & Recycling International magazine. To see the full article, with additional photos, or to receive the magazine on a regular basis, please visit www.khl.com/subscriptions

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