As part of our drive to tackle the increasing skills gap in the construction industry, here at Midland Lead we have been supporting colleges across the country to aid the training and development of future roofers. We have been supplying thousands of pounds of raw materials and tools to roofing and construction courses, all free of charge, in an effort to face the struggles of the industry head-on and help to build a stronger future.
After building a successful rapport with Leeds College of Building (LCB) over the last six years, it was marketing and sales manager Lynn Street who saw the potential in that relationship to create more. With the help of Simon Dixon, training manager at the NFRC, Lynn began to broaden the search to make more connections with construction colleges.
‘The support Midland Lead provides is brilliant,’ says Simon, who has been working with multiple organisations for years to encourage young people into the roofing trade. ‘Starting these conversations early on, about the types of materials the students are using and where they come from is a fantastic thing for colleges to be able to do; it informs their learning and fully prepares them for the world of work. ’
As of March, we have committed to supporting six colleges across the country. These are Leeds College of Building, Newcastle College, South Devon College, Eastern Region Roof Training Group, Dudley College and the South Coast Roof Training Group.
Our commitment to these institutions means we supply up to a metric tonne of rolled lead, that’s £2,200 at current market value, as well as lead working tools, tool belts and other ancillary products, such as sealant and patination oil, all free of charge.
Many colleges can’t afford to provide their roofing students with these specialised tools and materials to practise working with, as Chris Messenger, tutor at LCB, remarks: ‘Without the support we receive from Midland Lead our apprentice students wouldn’t be able to practise working with lead itself.’ Colleges tend to use plastic based lead-replacement products to keep costs down but, as Chris points out, this has it downsides. ‘It is only by using the actual material that apprentices can learn best practice.’
What’s more, the sustainable nature of lead manufacture means that nothing goes to waste. At the end of the term, when the lead has been used, we collect the scrap and recycle it.
As the only UK lead manufacturer to offer machine cast, rolled and sandcast lead, we are also able to provide experiences above and beyond the provision of materials. Since our relationship with LCB started six years ago, we have been welcoming student groups to the site for factory tours.
Visiting the factory is a fantastic experience for the students. It is an excellent opportunity to appreciate the various processes behind lead manufacture before it reaches building sites in its final form. After a recent visit to the processing plant, the LCB apprentices agreed that seeing the process of manufacture encouraged greater respect for the product. ‘If you know the how and why behind the manufacture and treatment of lead, then you can give the product the quality of care it needs.’ Says Matt Ford, a first year student at Leeds.
Matt’s tutor Chris Messenger agrees, believing that this extra insight into the industry gives his students a real appreciation for the material, ‘Midland Lead takes you on a first class journey of the lead manufacturing process from plant to site. It makes students really get to grips with using such a long-lasting material.’
During the visit our staff gave students talks on health and safety when working with lead sheet, as well as top tips on treating and installing lead products. We explained which ancillary products are used within the roofing industry alongside lead to get the most of their material. For example, fixing clips, patination oil and flexible lead slates. All this insider information will then help to ensure best practice is kept when it comes to handling lead.
Lynn Street, who has been behind the initiative since the start of this year, believes backing the colleges is a worthy investment. She says, ‘By supporting colleges we’re highlighting the durable and dependable nature of lead to the next generation of roofing contractors. With more and more lead replacement products entering the market it’s vital that students are fully informed about lead’s unique properties, and the fact that it really can’t be replicated. Introducing authentic lead products early on in an apprentice’s career expands their skill set and secures a future for traditional lead work.
‘As a national supplier of lead it is vital that companies like Midland Lead are doing their bit to bridge the skills gap and help the construction industry as a whole. Making these links between companies and institutions helps to do just that. As the future buyers of construction materials, forming relationships with the prospective workforce, and making them aware of lead as a sustainable and durable product, is so worthwhile for the future of our trade.’