Merchants praise NMBS apprenticeship initiative

Published:  06 September, 2013

Less than six months after its launch, the NMBS 'Apprenticeship Youth Enterprise 50' campaign is receiving strong praise from independent builders’ timber, plumbing and heating and hardware merchants.

Those merchants who have signed up for the initiative are acknowledging its effectiveness in providing a new generation of talent keen to forge a career in the industry. The feedback from the young adults who have successfully secured apprenticeships as a result of the campaign has been equally positive.

So far, some 19 apprentices have been recruited by NMBS members and suppliers thanks to the initiative. Keen to lead by example, NMBS has even taken on an apprentice itself – Joshua Agar – who is based within its IT department. In total, the buying society hopes to encourage the recruitment of a minimum of 50 apprentices by the end of 2013. A further 17 positions are currently being advertised.

To deliver the campaign, NMBS has teamed up with Didac, a training provider that runs the Builders Merchants Federation apprenticeship scheme. Interested businesses simply need to contact NMBS, which will then facilitate access to Didac's services.

Didac will then work with the merchant or supplier to advertise the position and screen applications. Shortlisting, interviews and eventual appointment are then conducted as normal and in line with the individual company's protocols and procedures. Once an apprentice is appointed, Didac will also work with the employer to provide training and the opportunity for the apprentice to gain NVQ qualifications.

Under the scheme, Didac's services are provided completely free of charge. Further financial incentives come in the form of government grants of up £1,500 per apprentice (dependent on geographical location), which can be put towards the apprentice's wages while training. For all apprentices between the ages 17 and 19, training costs are fully funded. In addition, after training, many apprentices can fulfil roles typically earmarked for graduates and at a fraction of the cost.

Neil Hickman, managing director at Hickman Supplies, is one of the independent merchants backing the scheme. He said: “The NMBS apprenticeship scheme demonstrates a clear commitment to the sector and enabled me to take on a weekend employee, Kieran Casey, who had recently left school and was looking for full-time employment.

"Over the last four months, it's been immensely rewarding to see Kieran evolve into an important member of our team, increasing in both skills and confidence. To monitor his performance and ensure his continued progression, Didac also visit our premises on a regular basis and set structured goals to ensure his abilities and value to the company continue to grow.

"I would happily recommend the initiative to all NMBS members."

Mr Hickman’s views are echoed by Kevin Middleton, joint managing director at Buttle. “The whole experience has been trouble-free and has resulted in us securing three enthusiastic school leavers who will contribute to the future success of the company.”

Those looking to find out more about NMBS’ scheme should contact operations manager Vicky March on 0116 261 4914 or by emailing

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