Deputy PM NIck Clegg listens as Benchmark MD Phill Brown explains merchant issues.

Clegg visits Benchmark to praise apprentice scheme

Published:  16 April, 2012

AUDENSHAW: Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg paid a visit to Greater Manchester-based independent builders' merchants Benchmark Building Supplies. The tour coincided with the launch of the Government's £1bn Youth Contract initiative.

The Deputy PM met apprentices employed at the business and spoke with Tom Arrundale, who was recently named National Apprentice of the Year by the Builders' Merchants Federation. Benchmark has placed in excess of 100 construction-related apprentices over the past three years.

Company managing director Phill Brown spent 20 minutes in a one-to-one discussion with the Deputy PM and talked about the state of trade. He recommended that the Government give a boost to the construction industry and looked at reducing VAT on repair, maintenance and improvement to properties.

Also discussed was the lack of know-how in the renewable energies marketplace, and how the Benchmark Training Academy is helping contractors obtain the correct accreditation to fit new insulation and sustainable building solutions.

The main topic of the conversation, however, was the benefits an energetic apprenticeship programme can bring to a company.

Mr Brown remarked that "the integration of youth and energy has paid massive dividends to the business and we work closely with all local colleges to deliver a structured and rewarding programme".

"In a world where obtaining an expensive university degree no longer guarantees a job, many 16-24 year olds are looking for alternative routes to get on the jobs ladder."

Apprenticeships have been gaining popularity in recent years and according to official figures published in January, there were 457 200 new starts in 2010-11, a 63.5% increase from the previous academic year.

"In addition to investing in young home-grown talent, we also have a long tradition of working with local junior sports teams and youth organisations" Mr Brown added.

The company is a recent trustee and patron of Mahdlo, a new facility in Oldham town centre offering every young person in the borough the opportunity to access a top quality, safe, and affordable place to spend their leisure time.

"This £5m centre is open seven days a week, 52 weeks a year and will help make a noticeable and positive difference for the young people of the borough," Mr Brown stated.

Benchmark will be recruiting new star apprentices at the Spring Tameside/ Stockport and Oldham Apprenticeship Job Fairs. The first will be held in Dukinfield Town Hall on Wednesday 25 April at 3-7 pm.

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