They learn their trades

Graham Mc Phail. Director of Apprenticeships, Head of construction and building services at Hartlepool College of Further Education
Graham Mc Phail. Director of Apprenticeships, Head of construction and building services at Hartlepool College of Further Education

FORGET the traditional image of apprenticeships.

Many people imagine apprentices as being fully employed in a factory, building site or an office – not in terms of a solid, structured partnership between a college and an employer.

Apprentices pictured at the new Hartlepool College of Further Education site.

Apprentices pictured at the new Hartlepool College of Further Education site.

Hartlepool College of Further Education is leading the way in training the skilled workforce with almost 500 apprentices across a range of employment sectors.

Apprentices from 16 years and over, employed by approximately 300 regional employers are learning their trades at the college in sectors such as ICT, design, engineering, health & care, sports, service industries and retail.

A number of construction apprentices in trades such as plumbing, electrical installation, brickwork, joinery and decorating are currently helping to build their own future college!

Twenty apprentices are working on the new £52m College, which is being built by main contractor Miller Construction.

to go with apprentice week monday feb 7

to go with apprentice week monday feb 7

The apprentices are employed by specialist contracting firms Halcyon, Deneside Interiors, NG Bailey, Purdys and MB Construction and combine practical experience and training, with skills development and theoretical study at the college.

The work of college apprenticeships is being highlighted this week as part of National Apprenticeship Week in a series of events the length and breadth of the country.

A host of events have been lined up by Hartlepool College of Further Education to link in with businesses, employers and agencies involved in the training and development of apprenticeships.

Graham McPhail, Director of Apprenticeships at the college, said “We are very proud that we are currently training nearly 500 apprentices with very high success rates.

“However, we could not do this without the total dedication of the students and the time, effort and support of the many employer partnerships.

“Employer partnership is the key, no matter how good the College provision, it only works with the support of employers like Miller and their contracting firms and these ongoing partnerships are essential to the sustainability of such programmes.

“It is vital that students gain the appropriate work experience to improve their skills in a real working environment. And providing the best skills training is highly beneficial to employers as it develops the apprentices skills and knowledge allowing them to be productive in the short term’

Hartlepool College of Further Education has been the largest provider of apprentices in the Tees Valley area for a number of years. The college’s success has been built on a holistic approach which meets organisational needs. It helps recruit apprentices as well as providing on-going training and education throughout the apprenticeship duration.

There are over 180 different types of apprenticeship frameworks ranging from retail to pharmacy, business administration to finance, aircraft engineering to accounting and youth work to classroom assistants. Many of these are delivered at the college and are a consistently popular choice with school leavers.

From a students point of view an apprenticeship is a rewarding way of gaining national occupational qualifications while obtaining valuable work experience with a reputable employer. The ‘earn while you learn’ makes it additionally attractive as all apprentices are now required to be in paid employment.

Anyone interested in starting an apprenticeship programme or any employer who wishes to be part of this successful programme should contact Student Services on (01429) 295111 or email

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Apprenticeship programmes are an integral part of the future skills base for Hartlepool and the local region and vital to the local economy.

Scores of local and regional employers know the benefits of sending their staff to Hartlepool College of Further Education.

Simon Watts, operations manager of Tegrel Limited, a sheet metal company and market leader for the design and construction of integrated messaging signs and a key partner of the college said: “Apprenticeships are here to stay and are increasing in popularity.”

A UK-wide group of specialist mechanical, electrical, ICT, maintenance and building management companies, NG Bailey invests approximately £4m in training across the company each year and provides apprentice schemes for between 60 and 100 applicants.

Fifty per cent of the NG Bailey workforce at the college new build, including technical managers and engineers, began their careers as NG Bailey apprentices.

Senior project manager, Andrew Bell, said: “Four of our apprentices have shown a fantastic attitude and commitment working on the college development and it is apparent they are proud to work on the building, which in September, will be providing them and others with the future training needed for the construction industry.

“It is great to work with young people, especially those who have a passion for the job that they are doing.”

Julie Hodgkiss, of Halcyon Building Systems, said: “Halcyon has many divisions which includes roofing and cladding, joinery, render, steel framing and drylining.

“In previous discussions with Hartlepool College of Further Education Halcyon has suggested introducing more courses of a wider range of construction methods to allow more diverse learning compared to the normal trades colleges provide.

“We are currently in discussions with the college to try take on students that would be interested in these different methods and feel it would be beneficial to both the college and future local employment.

“As Halcyon was appointed one of the main sub-contractors for the new college development it provided an incentive to negotiate with the college and offer two local apprentices a position within Halcyon’s joinery division.

“Halcyon would certainly recommend apprenticeships to be used as part of a company’s recruitment strategy. Not only is it cost effective but its viewed as a long term investment, the young people that Halcyon bring in as apprentices are a key to developing the business for the future and moving them to more responsible roles as their careers develop.”

Chris Hammond, of N. Purdy Painters and Decorators, said: “As a company we are only too pleased to be involved in any initiative with apprentices which will in turn lead to an increase in skill-based job experience and productivity for all.

“The Partnering Agreement between Hartlepool College of Further Education, Miller Construction and ourselves gives the opportunity for the apprentices to improve their skill base in a project environment where ultimnately they may even be studying their trade in a new building with both pride and satisfaction because of their involvement in the construction process.

“We are also proud to give an opportunity to the only female apprentice Nicole Bard who has impressed with her steady hand.

“She will increase her skills in brush and roller work, applying emulsion and gloss piants progressing to wide wallpaper hanging and no doubt will be able to point out her work on contract completion.”


Apprenticeship Week runs from today until Friday and is aimed at raising awareness of apprenticeships and their importance in to the UK economy.

It will showcase the talent and skills of apprentices from across the country and see apprentices, employers, colleges, providers and wider stakeholders illustrate the benefits of apprenticeship programmes and the value apprentices bring to the organisations they work for.

The National Apprenticeship Service is responsible for all elements of apprenticeships in England.

It works to increase the number of apprentices in businesses by talking to employers about the benefits of employing an apprentice and ensuring young people have the information they need to consider an Apprenticeship as the route into their career.

It contributes towards the costs of the training and qualifications that sit within an apprenticeship, engage with a wide range of partners to help design the frameworks they follow and implement Government policies aimed at improving the quality and quantity of apprenticeships.

The website enables apprentices, employers and training providers to find out more about what is on offer.

Many regional companies recruit via Hartlepool College of Further Education. To access these opportunities apply at Student Services at the College or visit the website