NAW 2021: Apprentices are the lifeblood of our business

It’s National Apprenticeship Week (NAW) and as a business that’s been taking on apprentices for more than 50 years, we’ve experienced the benefits first hand.

Founded by my grandfather in 1950, REL has always recognised the need to train and support tomorrow’s tradesmen. One of the first apprentices to work for my grandfather is still working for us today after joining REL 40 years ago as a trainee electrician. His sons Ben and Bobby have since followed in his footsteps also joining REL as apprentices.

At any one time, we have a group of up to five apprentices working for our business including electricians and plumbers. We provide a full apprenticeship scheme, so pay for college fees and continue to pay apprentices while they take time out to study. Each trainee is provided with a mentor who provides on the job training and supervision and also helps with the assessment process.

The scheme takes up to five years to complete and as soon as an apprentice becomes fully qualified, we appoint a new one so that there is no break in the process. It’s a system that works, resulting in a retention rate of 95 per cent and a loyal workforce, which we’re extremely proud of and are an integral part of the REL family.

Providing continued development and training ensures employees are given the opportunities to progress which is key to retaining staff. It also results in a more motivated workforce and ultimately, people with the right skills, knowledge and attitude to deliver the standard of service required. And with the right training, apprentices that work their way up the ranks not only offer an invaluable skill set but become aspirational role models for the next generation of tradesmen.

This year’s NAW theme is ‘Build the Future’ and for an M&E contractor, that couldn’t be more apt. Not only are apprentices helping us to build the vital skills needed for the construction sector, but playing a key role in creating buildings that will make a huge difference to people now and in years to come.

Toby Buckley, managing director of REL Building Services