1 in 5 Tradespeople Consider Apprentices More Important Than Ever Despite Covid-19 Decline

  • Over a fifth of companies that regularly hire apprentices took on fewer in 2020 
  • A quarter of tradespeople and companies plan on hiring new apprentices in 2021 
  • Percentage of female, BAME and apprentices with learning difficulties continues to grow year on year
  • IronmongeryDirectlaunch competition to win £5,000 towards funding an apprentice 

A third of companies and tradespeople (31%) who regularly hire apprentices feel that the program has been made harder due to the pandemic, as new ONS figures show a 30% drop in new construction apprentices between August and October 2020, compared to the same period the previous year. 

Demonstrating the effect of Covid-19 on the scheme, more than one in five (22%) companies that usually hire apprentices took on fewer in 2020, despite a fifth (19%) of tradespeople believing that the program is more important now than ever. 

Commissioned by IronmongeryDirect, the UK’s largest supplier of specialist ironmongery, in the run up to National Apprenticeship Week (8th to 14th February), the study also reveals that one in 12 tradespeople (8%) believe that the government has not done enough to support apprentices throughout the pandemic. 

Looking at the year ahead, the positive news is that a quarter (23%) of businesses and tradespeople plan to bring on apprentices in 2021. Building surveyors (34%) and electricians (28%) are the most likely trades to be looking for apprentices this year, while painter/decorators and landscapers are least likely (15% and 5%, respectively). 

Men in the industry are more likely than women to think that an apprenticeship is a great way for people to learn skills (31% vs 23%). Contrastingly however, it is tradeswomen and female-led companies that are most likely to be looking for an apprentice in the year ahead, with a quarter of women (25%) planning to hire a trainee compared to only one in five tradesmen (20%). 

According to the Office of National Statistics, female apprentices in construction are also on the rise, increasing by 19% in the 2019/20 academic year compared to the previous 12 months. This represents a much larger trend in growth as there are a huge 333% more female construction trainees than in 2014/2015. So far in the 2020/2021 academic year, the percentage of female new starters has increased to 9%, suggesting that this growth is set to continue. 

The statistics also reveal a changing story for apprentices of colour. While BAME apprentices made up only 6% of new construction apprentices in 2019/2020, this represents a 16% increase to the previous year and an 82% rise since 2014/2015. What’s more, despite the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic, the proportion of BAME trainees continues to grow as they make up 8% of new starters so far this academic year. 

The proportion of new apprentices with learning difficulties is also on the increase, making up 14% of the 2019/2020 intake. This is a 53% increase from 2014/15. This trend seems set to continue as 16% of the 2020/2021 year’s new starters so far have learning difficulties. 

Commenting on the research, Marco Verdonkschot, Managing Director at IronmongeryDirect, said: “It’s great to see many tradespeople and companies are still looking to make use of the apprenticeship program, despite the difficulty of the past year.  

“We think the apprenticeship scheme is an amazing way to help shape the next generation of tradespeople. That’s why we’ve launched a competition for a UK based tradesperson or company to win £5,000 towards funding an apprentice.”   

“There are so many people who do amazing work in the industry today who started out as apprentices, so it’s important that the program continues to be well-funded. More needs to be done to support apprentices throughout this pandemic to ensure that we continue to have great talent in the future, and we wanted to do our bit to help!” 

To enter the competition or learn more about this research, visit:


A Leadership Shift for 2021

By Stevan Jackson, Vistage Private Advisory Group Chair, West Midlands

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it
.” President Dwight D Eisenhower


There are as many definitions of leadership as there are commentators on the subject, but the quote from ‘Ike’ is one of the most succinct.  Much is made of the nature/nurture argument, about whether leaders are born or made.  The most obvious answer is that some people find leadership a more natural state of mind than others but that doesn’t necessarily make them better leaders than those who must work at it a bit more. History is littered with examples of charismatic leaders who have led their followers to an outcome that has been neither what they wanted or needed. There is no black art in leadership, it can be learned, practised, and polished by anyone who is prepared to make the effort, as with any other aspect of our professional life. Never has that been more obvious to the current generation of business leaders.


What this pandemic has done is remind us that we live in a world where uncertainty is permanent. COVID-19 has required business leaders to adapt to leading in different ways that demand certain skills and approaches. In my Vistage practice, I see leaders responding daily to the challenge of leading their teams in new ways. Considering the importance of employee engagement on business outcomes, leaders must invest in their leadership knowledge and skills to get the best of out of their teams. That has always been true and is not confined to the exceedingly difficult challenge we face.


Here are seven areas that every business leader could focus on to improve performance:


1. Model the way

To model the way, leaders need to be clear about their personal values and philosophy and express them in a way that leaves no doubt about what they believe in. Exemplary leaders set a personal example for others by their attitude and behaviours. They always deliver on their promises and commitments and live the values they champion.


2. Inspire a shared vision

Effective leaders create a compelling vision – where we are going and how we are going to get there together – that people can buy into and use to guide their attitudes and behaviours.  Through inspiring vision, leaders can challenge others to transcend the status quo, visualise positive outcomes in the future, communicate them to other team members and play a full role in achieving the company’s desired outcomes.


3. Challenge the process

Challenging the process means being curious, willing to change the status quo and step into the unknown.  It includes being willing to innovate, grow and improve. Exemplary leaders are like pioneers – they experiment and try new things. They are willing to take calculated risks and are not afraid to fail – from which comes learning and improvement. 


4. Show empathy

If employees feel that leaders care about them, they will be more engaged and more inclined to give of their best. Outstanding leaders are highly effective at building trust within their teams by showing empathy and promoting collaboration. Teamwork and cooperation come from listening closely to diverse points of view and treating others with dignity and respect. Empathetic leaders encourage their people to make informed choices and then support the decisions their teams make. Empathetic leaders create an environment where people can feel good about their work and understand how it contributes to the greater community. A survey of 15,000 business leaders by Development Dimensions International found a link between enhanced empathy and leadership performance.


5. Care about your people (and show it)

Research in the UK has found that “stress, depression or anxiety” were responsible for 44% of all cases of work-related ill health and more than half of all working days lost. There is evidence that these issues are exacerbated in times of crisis, which is why effective leaders make it a priority to encourage and promote the physical and mental wellbeing of their staff. This can include simple actions such as ringing isolated employees regularly and asking, ‘how are you – what can I do to help?’  Focussing on employee wellbeing can create an engaged and healthy workforce. In companies with this culture, employees tend to enjoy better relationships with their bosses, higher personal wellbeing, and more job satisfaction.


6. Celebrate success

It is natural for people to want support and for their work to be recognised.  Effective leaders are highly attentive to this need and are willing to give praise to people for a job well done. Using authentic celebrations and rituals to show appreciation and encouragement to others is essential and can lead to improved collective identity and community spirit.


7. Communicate, communicate, communicate

The key to effective team-working is communication – especially with a dispersed workforce. In that regard, team meetings to agree objectives, to expose disagreements and resolve them by open discussion are essential. These are real hallmarks of effectiveness. This is a good point at which to reflect on how often do you participate in team meetings and how well led are those team meetings?  Even teams that hold regular meetings will achieve little if there is too great a power gradient between the leader/s and members of the team. Effective leaders will allow themselves to be challenged and respond in a constructive way to contribute to the personal development of their team members and for the sake of business improvement and better outcomes.


There is unwavering pressure on leaders to figure everything out alone and uncertain times call for agile leaders. That’s why Vistage are proud to provide a platform where high-performing business leaders can safely talk about their challenges, fears, questions, and opportunities with peers and make better decision; grow their business and have a better work-life balance. After all, “not one of us is as clever as all of us”. In this pandemic, that could be the difference between thriving or just surviving. For more information about Vistage please contact me at [email protected] 


Turnover of Personnel Can Be Reduced by 25% Through Good Communication

Good communication reduces personnel turnover in retail shops by up to 25 per cent, according to new research by the University of Cologne and ECONtribute.

The research, conducted by Professor Matthias Heinz, found that personnel turnover can be reduced by simple communication between upper to middle management and from store managers to employees.

In a long-term field experiment, the researchers analysed the quit rate in shops after the CEO wrote a letter to half of his store managers asking them to ‘do what they can’ to take better care of the employees.

As a result, in the following nine months, store managers who received the CEO’s letter spent more time with their employees (an average of 20 minutes a day), while nothing changed in the remaining shops. Employees of the contacted store managers resigned less frequently. The CEO then reminded managers again of the goal and turnover rates dropped again to the same extent.

“The research emphasises the importance of choosing good managers. In principle, they should be able to communicate and interact well with people in order to keep quit rates as low as possible. However, even the uncommunicative, poor leadership style of some managers can be positively influenced by a simple request from the executive floor,” says Professor Heinz.

The research highlights that given limited resources of top managers, it is the middle managers who connect top managers with the operational level, supervisors, and workers.

For this reason, the researchers add that learning more about how middle managers can be influenced to use their time, in a profitable way that also benefits workers, may be of greater importance than realised. Before the experiment, an average of 80 per cent of the 5,500 employees quit their jobs each year.

The research will be published in the top international journal Management Science.


Safe As Houses CEO Secures Success

Everyone is looking for the perfect home, but new build properties bring challenges that many just aren’t aware of. After facing her own difficulties when settling in, Nichola Venables of New Build Database Ltd was determined that no one else should have to struggle like she did. We take a closer look at why she has been named CEO of the Year, 2020 – the United Kingdom, and how a personal approach has inspired her to move forward.

When Nichola purchased her new build home nearly five years ago, she was amazed and horrified at the lack of quality post sale service. Her home was eventually identified as lacking cavity barriers, a major failure of fire safety procedure. It meant that her home did not meet building regulations. Her mission was soon clear, to find out if other people had been affected and to create a system of support in a challenging time.

Nichola started the business after eighteen years operating within the finance sector and gained a further 7 years experience in risk consultancy. The clear gap in the construction market however inspired her to make the leap to running her own business. By its nature, the construction industry is in constant flux, with new rules and regulations running rampant. As such, Nichola has had to work hard to stay on top of any and all developments.

The result of her hard work has been the New Build Database, a unique offering in the construction market. Nichola’s development is like a ‘Trip Advisor’ for the construction industry, allowing clients to access a single national record of New Build Home issues, residential fire safety issues, a free DIY snagging service,  a free snagging report and a public Benchmark of Residential Construction Developers. The aim has been to make the process of snagging all the easier, with a simple step-by-step process.

New Build Database is designed to appeal to homeowners and developers. Each has their own distinct requirements from the firm. Homeowners who struggle with the costs of hiring a snagging company can do a lot of the work themselves, undertaking a basic snagging process to ensure that the house is live-able in. This does not take away from the work of snagging companies, in fact it enhances what they can do. Not everything can be identified by a layperson, and often the most important aspects of a new build’s quality can only be measured by an experienced trades person.

Developers, too, benefit from the team’s work. The reports made by New Build Database identify Issue and Risk Themes and locations and Customer impacts. This can be supplied to the Developer as Raw Data or in a purpose written report with recommendations. This allows developers to ensure their properties are completed to the highest possible standards.

Nichola has reached out to people in many different ways over the previous months, using a variety of techniques. Word of mouth and direct business contact have proven to be effective amongst the firm’s various clients, but this is likely to change and evolve as the business becomes better known.

The support information is out there, but it’s often hard to find. Nichola has created a place where everything is gathered under one roof, spending hours researching and even utilising Freedom of Information requests where needed. The construction industry is often opaque, and where standards slip, no one is willing to take responsibility. As Nichola continues along her path of success, we expect to see the industry as a whole change for the better.

For more information, visit:

Brand achievement

Connection Is Key

The Dundee & Angus Chamber of Commerce is the leading business organisation in the local area, bar none. It represents the interests of an enormous amount of businesses and guarantees innovation across the region. Led by Alison Henderson, this Chamber of Commerce has been able to thrive. Named CEO of the Year, 2020 – the United Kingdom, we take a more in-depth look at Alison and her work to find out more. 

In business, connections are paramount. A solid network of trusted contacts can transform the way in which a business works. In Dundee & Angus, the Chamber of Commerce is that hub that holds business together. Under the stalwart leadership of Alison Henderson, the team have pulled together impressive resources that have had a progressive effect on the industry.

The role of the Dundee & Angus Chamber of Commerce is to see the connections which bind business together. These connections are designed to help business, help the team and help to develop the outlook for the city region and beyond. Local businesses and local people are the first priority of Alison and her team, and they work incredibly strategically to understand the big picture and deliver on the goals they set themselves.

Alison’s mission is to ensure that the region is always moving forward. She is incredibly ambitious in her intentions for Dundee & Angus at large, with the establishment of a thriving chamber of commerce being a vital component for success. Promoting the private sector, and enabling businesses to attract and retain the most talented people, is what will see the region as a place where people can prosper.

In many ways, this is reflected by the values on which she stands. They were reshaped in 2018 to reflect the newly scaled up ambition of the organisation. These are to be successful, supportive, approachable and engaging. Every action that is taken by the team is designed to assist the organisation to stay on track and follow these principles.

One of the challenges of running the Dundee & Angus Chamber of Commerce is finding ways in which to engage members from all different walks of life. The membership of the organisation is its lifeblood, and vital to creating change in the region. Naturally, the more members there are, the more effectively, Dundee & Angus Chamber of Commerce can do its work, but it also means that engaging everyone involved is more of a challenge.

The team have been able to grow its membership successfully over the last few years, creating a service that businesses want to use. Alison has been key to this overhaul, examining what products are on offer and innovating to ensure that the organisation remains as appealing as it always has been. One of the most rewarding aspects of working for the Dundee & Angus Chamber of Commerce is the way in which it is able to communicate. Marketing is very strong and the team deliver an exceptional events programme that allows members to be inspired, engaged and grow their businesses.

The team supports business in a number of different ways, allowing them to increase their profile in a positive and effective way. This has been achieved through a number of different methods to suit the needs and requirements of the business. Face-to-face visits have been extremely helpful, but the team are able to work through online channels equally effectively. Allowing people to make the choice of how they connect has been a boon to all parties involved.

The nature of the Dundee & Angus Chamber of Commerce’s work has allowed the team to develop unique values for its company culture. Every member of the team is encouraged to be inclusive, engaged, supportive and strong. Instead of focusing directly on one task, and not looking outside of a specific niche, colleagues work closely to support new initiatives that will develop better ways of working. Personal development is incredibly important in this environment, and the team ensure that any projects take into account what the business is good at and where it is weakest.

A relatively flat team structure allows everyone to perform to the best of their ability, as well as stepping out of their comfort zone with the knowledge of total support from the team. It means that individuals can work in a self-directed way, while also seeing clearly how individual success plays into the business as a whole. Encouraging this holistic approach in everyone has given Alison’s team an insight into what the Dundee & Angus Chamber of Commerce can really achieve and ensures that everyone is listened to.

Because the staff play such a vital role, Alison has ensured that recruitment is handled with a great deal of care. The right person brings not only the correct skills for the role, but personal attributes that will support the team and the business too. Those who will uphold the values of inclusivity, engagement, support and strength can be taught many of the other more specialist skills used by the team.

What is clear is that Alison has seen Dundee & Angus Chamber of Commerce modernise to meet the needs of the day. While the model that the organisation is based on is one of a longstanding business membership, it has been vital not to let things slip. As a smaller city, it can be difficult to ensure that Dundee’s voice is being heard in the larger sphere, but the ambitious approach championed by Alison and her team have ensured that they are in a strong position moving forward.

The future looks bright for the Dundee & Angus Chamber of Commerce, with plans in the works to make it even brighter. The team have made significant investments in digital systems processes and platforms to work better on an internal level. It’s an approach that has allowed members to operate on a five-star platform. Similarly, Alison has begun the process to put a Flexible Working Policy into place to attract and retain talent. Investing in people is a priority, and a reason behind her enviable success. Finally, the organisation is delivering services which place green recovery and international trade at the heart of the team’s success.

Alison has led a quiet revolution in an organisation that has been at the heart of the business community in Dundee for years. The results speak for themselves, however. Dundee & Angus Chamber of Commerce remains a stalwart of the region, inspiring and encouraging new growth. Under Alison’s impressive leadership, the team set the standards by which industry should operate.

To contact, please visit:
Dundee & Angus Chamber of Commerce. Alison Henderson.