Housebuilder adapts apprentice programme to overcome pandemic challenges

Alan Turnbull

HOUSEBUILDER Barratt has hailed the performance of the firm’s apprentices in recent months despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last August, four new apprentices started as part of the Barratt East Scotland’s regional 11-person brickwork team.

Alan Turnbull (24), from Edinburgh, had previously been working as a labourer with a local contractor. “I’m someone who wants to be proud of the work they do and be able to show something for it, so the opportunity of working for a big company like Barratt really tempted me,” he explained.

Joining Alan was Ciaran Grieg (17), who was seeking an opportunity in construction after taking part in a multi-skills course at college where he enjoyed the bricklaying aspect. “It just happened that Barratt was building a new site across from where I stayed and were looking for bricklayers, I really lucked out,” he explained. “I’d also heard lots about their apprenticeship programme so decided to go for it.”

Seven months in, they’re working at a number of Barratt Homes and David Wilson Homes developments across the east of Scotland.

While sites have been allowed to remain operational in recent months with enhanced safety measures, Barratt revealed it has adapted its apprenticeship programme using tools that haven’t always been traditional in the housebuilding sector.

Ciaran Grieg

Ray Gibson, brickwork manager at Barratt East Scotland, explained, “The apprentices have done really well so far despite the different circumstances. Because face-to-face classes in colleges are currently on hold, we’ve often adapted the way we work with them. Through a WhatsApp group, I have given them weekly challenges, where they upload pictures and short video clips of what they have been doing.

“These challenges put them in squads who then take the apprentices under their wing, giving them as much training and opportunity with practical experience as possible. Social distancing has made it difficult for the apprentices to learn from other teams, as we’ve had to place them in smaller squads. So these chat groups have worked well to bring them together and form a sense of camaraderie.”

The interview process saw each applicant in a group setting, which Barratt said allowed the company to gain a better insight on their ability to work with others, as well as having to carry out a demonstration of their own individual skills.

“By establishing them in a squad, we hope that by the time they finish their placements they stay with Barratt,” Ray Gibson added. “I’m pretty confident that this will be true for the apprentices in their third and fourth years and I’d like to think that those in their first years want to move into management.”

Barratt East Scotland will be recruiting a further eight apprentices in September of this year and January 2022. A total of 26 new starts will form part of Barratt Developments Scotland’s 2021 intake.