Keighley College is fast becoming a hub for apprenticeship training and with their recent participation in the 100 in 100 campaign, they aim to ramp up on their apprenticeship offering this year.

The college, which recently partnered with local support services and employers including Bradford Council, SkillsHouse and the DWP to launch the Skills Support Hub for adults and young people, has also been working hard to place apprentices in the district, with 350 already in different posts across sectors that include engineering, healthcare and construction.

The town's industries have historically been in textiles, particularly wool and cotton processing and weaving. However, the construction industry has also steadily grown in the region over the years.

Clare Fitzgerald, head of stakeholder engagement at Keighley College, said: “We have seen more construction companies promoting careers throughout their organisation, particularly during the Covid crisis.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Clare Fitzgerald, head of stakeholder engagement at Keighley CollegeClare Fitzgerald, head of stakeholder engagement at Keighley College

“At Keighley College we have been working with several companies such as Cobbydale Construction and RJ Riley to match them with suitable apprentices , through our various programmes, including  bricklaying, carpentry, plumbing and electrical installation.”

Clare said that in most cases there is a rise in apprenticeship programmes beyond the vocational trades and learners are interested in the academic side of construction too; right up to Level 6 (degree) and Level 7 (master’s) in surveying, project management  and architecture - something that the college hopes to develop in the future.

Meanwhile, Britain’s construction sector extended its robust recovery from the initial Covid-19 lockdown, something which Steve Edwards, managing director of Cobbydale can attest to.

Construction firms also began hiring for the first time in nearly two years in December, as a surge in housebuilding helped the sector expand for the seventh month in a row, according to IHS Markit/CIPS purchasing managers’ index (PMI) that showed a reading of 54.6% growth.

“While we have streamlined and have less staff than we did prior to the pandemic, we have consolidated our teams and learnt how to manage them better and keep them organised and running more efficiently. This in turn has made our service more lucrative and helped us become more profitable.”

Keighley College and Cobbydale have worked together since 2018. The construction company, which specialises in domestic extensions and new builds for private and commercial customers in Keighley, Bingley, Ilkley and Skipton, recently took on apprentices Megan Sugden who is studying a Level 2 in Brickwork and Mason Taylor currently completing a Level 2 in Brickwork.

Construction has become one of the largest sectors of the economy. As a result, the industry has a shortage of skilled labour, coupled with an ageing workforce. It is also a sector at the forefront of government policies, regarding the pledge to build a significant number of affordable housing.

The government is the single largest client of the construction industry, with public sector construction contracts worth up to £30bn per year – the equivalent of 30% of total construction output according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

“We are building for the future at Cobbydale, bringing on younger staff and training them with the skills and knowledge required to excel in the industry - particularly how we work here,” said Steve.

“While Megan is doing a bricklaying course, she is learning all aspects of building and is also gaining the relevant skills to become a plasterer and how to do joinery.”

Steve said the company’s aim is to ensure that the people they train are well equipped in all areas of the industry so that they will ‘never be out of a job’.

The apprentices that come on board also have the opportunity to understand another aspect of construction, by working with Cobbydale’s sister company, Bingley Windows that manufactures PVC, windows and doors.

“We’re not focused on one skill and I think that is really important in our line of work.

They get to see how and why certain regulations are in place and it gives them an understanding of another aspect of construction; they get a well-rounded experience of the industry and what it entails.

“Taking on an apprentice helps build the future of a company. When you secure the right apprentice, they bring fresh ideas. It also gives a boost to those already working in the company, as they get to see a different point of view,” added Steve.

As part of the government's plan to support businesses and help young people gain employment, they have recently introduced additional payments to support employers who hire new apprentices between August 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021. Employers who hire a new apprentice will receive up to £3,000 for apprentices aged 16 to 24, and £1,500 for those aged 25 and over.

To find out more about the apprenticeship campaign and how to hire apprentices for your construction or plumbing business, contact Clare at: