THE BLOG

Apprentices Are Key to the Future

13/03/2013 13:30 GMT | Updated 13/05/2013 10:12 BST

I was thrilled to be asked to blog for the First Woman Awards as I was finalised in last year's Awards held in association with Lloyds Banking Group.

I have decided to talk about apprentices as it's a subject I am very passionate about and, indeed, occasionally controversial.

For those that don't know me or my company, D-Drill, we are at the hard end of construction as a specialist sub-contractor. Our staff are skilled in diamond drilling, concrete sawing and demolition and we work for everyone from small, local construction contractors up to some of the largest companies in our field.

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While we use the latest technology - sourced from around the world - it's our people and their skills that make us successful.

That doesn't happen by chance - we invest heavily in training and particularly in apprentices.

When times are tight, everyone is looking at where they can cut back and save but it would be of huge detriment to our industry if the axe started to fall on apprenticeships.

I am a massive believer in apprentices. Around 45 per cent of my overall workforce has been through, or is currently going through, our apprenticeship scheme.

I've even put myself through the apprenticeship because I want to know what the guys go through on a day-to-day basis.

The question is often put to me: why bother?

The people who ask that will say that apprenticeships are pointless because you end up spending money on training someone up and then they up and leave when you have invested a great deal of time and money into them.

I have a couple of answers to that. Firstly, if every company takes that attitude where is the new blood going to come from in our industry?

Don't get me wrong, I am not on a selfless quest but I would much rather train an apprentice and lose them to the industry now and again, than to see the construction industry slowly eroded because we never bring on new people.

Slowly, we will just see our skills disappear and will have done nothing to replace them so it is vital that we bring on our apprentices.

Secondly, if you do the right thing by your apprentices, you won't face the scenario where you train them and then lose them.

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Here at D-Drill we train them, we look after them and we show them that there is a career progression here for them if they want it. Many of my managers have come up through the ranks having started as an apprentice.

Of course, the odd one will slip through the net but, as I said above, I can live with that because, equally, I might pick up members of staff who have been through apprenticeships elsewhere.

That's the way business works - but if we all stop training and stop bringing on apprentices, everyone loses in my opinion and, ultimately, the industry dies.

So, to me, taking on apprentices should not be seen as a luxury that businesses can pull the plug on when times are tough.

We have a responsibility to invest in our own company's future and, indeed, the future of our industry because we can all have the best policies, procedures and practices, without people none of that matters.

The mistake has been made in the past where not enough new blood was brought into the industry and I only hope that we have learned from that and continue to invest in apprentices to safeguard the future of construction.

Julie White was shortlisted for the 2012 First Women Awards.

For further information click here.

This year's awards ceremony will take place on Wednesday 12 June and is hosted by Real Business in association with Lloyds Banking Group.