Speaking at the event at the House of Commons to mark the 110th anniversary of the Builders Merchants Federation, Sajid Javid MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, praised the merchant sector for its work in attracting apprentices into the industry.
Speaking to the audience gathered in the Strangers’ Dining Room, the Housing Secretary welcomed the work of the BMF and its members in using the Apprenticeship Levy to create apprenticeship roles and opportunities for young people to enter the sector. He also pointed to the vital role the building materials supply chain plays in meeting the Government’s housebuilding targets.
With housing high on the political agenda, the BMF has increased its political advocacy over the last 18 months, promoting the interests of its members and ensuring that politicians from all parties understand how materials get from the quarry or factory gate to building sites – outlining that merchants remain the most efficient route to market for those products, and that the industry offers excellent career options both through apprenticeships and graduate traineeships.
The BMF revealed that since the Apprenticeship Levy came into effect just a year ago, 74 builders’ merchants have so far used the BMF Apprenticeship Plus service and they anticipate a further 200 new apprenticeship roles by the end of this year. John Newcomb, BMF Chief Executive, said the numbers will continue growing quickly over the coming years and also pointed to Travis Perkins’ recent announcement of plans to create 200 further apprentice roles in 2018 alone.
Addressing over 100 guests from merchant businesses, suppliers, trade orgatisations and politicians, John said: “At £55bn the UK building materials supply chain is bigger than the automotive and aerospace industries combined. We’re growing too, with merchants delivering the building blocks for economic and housing growth across the country seeing robust growth through 2017 and into this year.
“The confidence, growth and resilience in our sector means we’re able to invest more into opening up opportunities for young people to enter the industry. We truly value what apprentices can bring to our industry and through our own Apprenticeships Training Agency we are keen to encourage as many people as possible into the sector. This is why we welcome the Government’s introduction of the Apprenticeships Levy, as we’ve been able to use this to boost the availability of roles for trainees and to help address skills shortages in our industry.
“Many merchants have been around for over 100 years and are family businesses. We care about our local communities. This is why we’re the perfect partner for a government looking to build more homes, and a great place for young people to build a great career for themselves.”
Reflecting the importance of developing talent within the merchant sector, John introduced Magda Dexter, Customer Experience and Communications Director at Jewson. Magda, a previous winner of the BMF’s Young Achiever Award, discussed her experiences and career progression within the sector, expressing the need to showcase to young people the opportunities the merchant sector can offer.
She also touched on the sector’s need to attract more women into the industry, discussing the importance of representation and for ‘role models’ and ‘mentoring’ to showcase what can be achieved.
Housing Secretary Sajid Javid was next to take to the podium. He commented: “For over a century the Builders Merchants Federation has played a crucial role in supporting our construction industry to build the homes our country needs and training the next generation’s workforce. I want to congratulate the BMF and its members for their long service and continued work offering young people the potential for a great career in the industry.”