Hundreds helped into construction industry after Hartlepool firm tackled shortage of brickies

Apprentices Luke Hill, 18, and Georgia Readman, 19, both from Hartlepool with (from left) Paul Champion of Profound Group, Steve Willis, Pro-active Safety and Sarah Thorpe of investor UK Steel Enterprise.
Apprentices Luke Hill, 18, and Georgia Readman, 19, both from Hartlepool with (from left) Paul Champion of Profound Group, Steve Willis, Pro-active Safety and Sarah Thorpe of investor UK Steel Enterprise.

Almost 300 new places are being created in the construction industry by an organisation which has opened a new training centre which has also brought dozens of jobs.

Hundreds of young people are getting the chance of well-paid apprenticeships and jobs.

We have companies providing invaluable work-based placements for our trainees which improves our success rate, links to schools to offer vocational training and we have also created more than 25 full time posts for tutors

Steve Willis, Brickwork Services founder

Steve Willis, who started Brickwork Services in 2005 in UK Steel Enterprise’s Innovation Centre in Hartlepool, took matters into his own hands when he was faced with a chronic shortage of skilled bricklayers.

He set up sister company Pro-active Safety to provide consultancy services and training opportunities in bricklaying, scaffolding and general construction.

He first set up a base in Hartlepool and now - with help from a £50,000 loan from UK Steel Enterprise, the Tata Steel business support subsidiary - Pro-active Safety is expanding.

A second centre, in Peterlee, has welcomed its first batch of trainees and expects to cater for 200 apprentices during this year.

On top of that, there’s places for a further 90 general operative trainees. And to train up the massive intake, there’s also 25 full-time posts for tutors.

The massive boost to the construction industry comes just months after Brickwork set up its first training centre on the Park View Industrial Estate in Hartlepool.

An initial 90 traineeships led to 60 paid apprenticeships, and then full-time jobs with Brickwork Services. Currently, a further 60 young people are in training there in general construction.

Brickwork Services was also backed by UK Steel Enterprise in 2013 when a £50,000 investment formed part of a £100,000 expansion project and created around 40 jobs.

Mr Willis said: “UK Steel Enterprise helped us originally when we were finding it difficult to access finance despite a growing order book at Brickwork Services.

“Without their help at a crucial time we could not have grown so successfully or established Pro-active Safety and we are grateful for this new investment.

“Currently we employ around 140 bricklayers on contract across the north and are working on more than 17 sites.”

The company has contracts worth millions of pounds with clients that include Gentoo, Wimpey, Bellway Homes, Keepmoat Homes, Seneca Homes, Bernicia and Esh Group.

Mr Willis added: “It was frustrating to find ourselves turning away lucrative contracts because of the shortage of skilled bricklayers.

“So we decided to do something about it ourselves and Pro-active Safety works in partnership with training organisations such as NCT Training and, recently, the Profound Group at Peterlee.

“It’s been hard work but is paying dividends for everyone.”

Sarah Thorpe, of UK Steel Enterprise, said: “Steve has decades of invaluable experience in the construction industry and our confidence in his companies has been more than justified.”