Skills and staff retention have always been big issues for the scaffolding sector. With scaffolding companies competing for qualified and experienced scaffolders, there has been a reluctance to invest in training for fear another company will benefit from all that time and effort when they poach members of staff. And the more companies that fish for experienced people from their competitors rather than training their own, the shallower the talent pool becomes.

One company that has always actively swum against that tide is Millcroft.

Managing director, Billy Jones explains: “We have always been committed to training all personnel and bringing new apprentices into the team each year. For us, training has not only delivered a very skilled and experienced team; it’s also nurtured a very loyal and customer-focused team made up of people who have a pride and a passion for what we do. 

“In that way, training not only benefits our business and our clients, it also benefits our industry and our community, because it ensures we create opportunities and provide rewarding careers. So when our Head of HSEQ, Mike Wright, suggested we consider the Government’s new Kickstart scheme, I was eager to get Millcroft involved.”

Kickstart is a Government initiative to provide paid work placements and training for young people aged 18-25 who are not in employment education or training (NEET). It aims to create opportunities for those worst affected by the economic impact of the pandemic and allows employers to connect with a potential talent pool that will offer them additional resources during the recovery.

“The aims of the scheme really complement what we already try to achieve with training and employee development here at Millcroft,” Mike Wright explains.

“We have our own training centre and every member of the team has a personal training and development plan. We also have a recruitment policy that focuses on the person, not just the qualifications on their CV. So much of developing the right team is recruiting people with a positive attitude, a willingness to learn and an ability to work well with others, taking pride in their role. That’s what we’re looking for with our Kickstart trainees.”

Millcroft will hire 12 Kickstart trainees in total; six this year and six next year in a variety of site and office-based roles. The recruitment process for this year’s cohort is now complete, with six successful trainees now in position for the year.

It was The NASC that initially signposted Millcroft to the Kickstart scheme and the organisation’s training officer, Henry Annafi, is delighted by how much the company has embraced the initiative.

“Kickstart is exactly the sort of programme the scaffolding sector needs to attract more talent into the industry and develop a training culture,” Henry explains. “There is often a disconnect between perceptions of the scaffolding sector amongst young people and the diverse roles available thanks to opportunities for career development that a company like Millcroft can offer.

“By getting involved in Kickstart, Millcroft is not only creating work experience and training opportunities for 12 young people, they are also showcasing the industry and encouraging both other companies and other young people to consider how we can put training front and centre of the sector in the future.”

What Can the Kickstart Programme do for the Scaffolding Sector?

Like the Millcroft team, Henry is also keen to highlight the social value benefits of the Kickstart scheme. “Often young people feel qualifications and academic achievement are the only way their success will be measured,” he says, “but in the real world, we also need practical skills, teamwork and a good worth ethic. Companies like Millcroft that invest in training young people, are helping to create sustainable communities and offering the first step on a career ladder that is varied and rewarding.”

“The Kickstart scheme is a great way to help us recruit young people who perhaps hadn’t thought about a career in the sector before,” Mike adds. “We need to increase diversity in the scaffolding industry and consider our future skill requirements, including digital systems and design processes, alongside core competencies such as health and safety. There is no such thing as a typical recruit for us, what we want to see is young people who are eager to learn and willing to invest in their own development.”

“The best part for us,” Billy adds, “is showing people the complexity and variety of what we do. Our team is immensely proud to be in the scaffolding sector and we’re excited about passing that pride on to our new generation of trainees.”