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27 March 2017 Written by 

SMEs must employ and develop more young talent

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the property and construction industry are at risk of failing if they do not plan sufficiently for problems associated with an ageing workforce and skills shortage, says fit-out and refurbishment specialists Pexhurst.

Research conducted by the Chartered Institute of Builders (CIOB) shows that in the construction industry, the total number of workers over 60 has increased more than any other age group, whilst the biggest reduction is in the total of workers under 30.

An ageing workforce is a serious challenge facing the property and construction industry and SMEs in particular need to have succession plans in place to ensure skills and knowledge are not lost.

One solution is to ensure there is a regular flow of fresh young talent joining businesses to learn from the experienced workforce and develop their skills and careers.

Commenting Martin Vella, Managing Director of Pexhurst, says: "We have been operating for 40 years this year and have always had great pride in our workforce. More than 50% of our staff have worked with us since 1995 and this retention of expert craftsmen has meant that we have continued to grow as a reliable company.

"However, we recognise the importance of bringing in and developing the next generation and we have been taking steps over the past few years to ensure we have a steady flow of new young talent joining us, by offering work placements, apprenticeship schemes and employing people straight from school or university.

"We are currently looking to partner with a nearby college to provide school leavers with a job in the property industry and we are getting involved with XLP, a registered charity that works to create positive futures for young people."

Pexhurst has also invested in upskilling its workforce through NVQs and accredited courses run by the CIOB.

Trainee site manager Conor Bartram joined Pexhurst in August 2016 after University and hasn't looked back since.

He says: "I studied Sports Science at University but really wanted to work in the construction sector. I got in touch with Pexhurst to see if they could provide me with some work. I met with the team a few times and they offered me a position as an apprentice, which I was more than happy to do. With the apprenticeship I have the ability to go back to college to study, take my HNC and then my HND.

"Although I've only been working at Pexhurst for a few months, I feel like I've been here for years. I'm keen to learn as much as I can and have a great mentor in Michael Ward who has been at the firm for 25 years.

"I am very grateful to Martin and the team at Pexhurst for giving me the chance to join their firm and I intend to learn and develop as much as I can, so that one day I'm managing my own sites.

"Sometimes I think young people get a rough deal when it comes to getting a job or event training. Businesses want you to have experience in order to give you the job but you can't get experience until you've had a job. Young people need to be more proactive about approaching companies they would like to work for and look at all of the different options open to them, like apprenticeships."



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