John Berry, managing director of contractor Bluestone South West, explains the company's apprenticeship scheme for youngsters and its aim to turn site workers into managers
What is your apprenticeship scheme?
It's three years long and leads to NVQ qualifications in a trade. Each year, we take on 12 apprentices, most of whom are in their teens. We train them through local colleges so that they can stay close to home, which is what most want. About 250 of our operatives are direct employees – that's 50% of our site-based workforce.

How do you recruit people?
We go to local schools and our operatives give presentations explaining the kind of work we do. In any case, we do a lot of work for schools so whenever we are working on a school project we make sure that pupils are kept informed of what we are doing.

What kind of reservations do young people have about joining construction, and how do you overcome these?
On the whole, the response is positive. But we have had enquiries from parents who are anxious about their child's safety on site. For example, we recently invited a young lad's parents to visit our business. They were caring parents who wanted to be reassured that their son would be safe and happy on site – which they were by the end of the visit. We were more than happy to show them around and will encourage other parents to do the same.

How do you encourage site workers to progress into managerial positions?
Each year all of our staff, including our craftsmen, go through an appraisal process.

Encouraging your people to aim high becomes a self-fulfilling cycle whereby good people do even better

The object of the appraisal is to give everyone a chance to articulate their career aims and it gives us an opportunity to spot people with ambition. We make a point of encouraging operatives to go into supervisory roles and try to encourage their sense of belonging to the company by giving them a share in the company's rewards.

So do you have any examples of a tradesman who has progressed to a management or supervisory position?
One lad joined us four years ago as a labourer. He is now working as a small-works supervisor after training with the Somerset School of Art and Technology. He's also studying on the Chartered Institute of Building's course to become a chartered builder.