An equal partnership between Cambridge City Council and The Hill Group

Published: 8 May 2024

HRH The Princess Royal officially opens Cambridgeshire’s first “real-life” bricklaying apprenticeship Training Hub tackling the skills gap and housing shortage

Bricklaying, Site Supervisor and Surveying apprentices welcomed HRH The Princess Royal to officially open the National House Building Council’s (NHBC) new Apprenticeship Training Hub in Cambridge, which is delivering the next generation of skilled house builders in the East of England and closing the national skills gap and housing shortage.

The NHBC Training Hub, adjacent to the Histon Football Club, Impington, can train 80 apprentices all year round, enabling them to qualify in as little as 14 months. The facility, equipped with classrooms, welfare, and catering facilities, provides apprentices with a realistic outdoor working environment and is initially focusing on bricklaying.

At the opening, HRH The Princess Royal met with bricklaying apprentices who demonstrated the various stages needed to build a house and emphasised the need to encourage more people into house building, with bricklaying being an excellent pathway into a rewarding and well-paid career.

Tawona Mativi, 29, from Cambridge, who is a Bricklaying Apprentice with GSQ Brickwork at the NHBC Cambridge Training Hub and currently working on the CIP developments, said:It’s a privilege to meet HRH The Princess Royal. I was discouraged by my teachers at school from pursuing an apprenticeship. Some people have the mindset that you must go to university to succeed, but you can make something of yourself in house building by getting an apprenticeship. If I had that time over again, I would have done this apprenticeship at the NHBC Training Hub straight out of school.

“The trainers at the NHBC Training Hub are experts and I’m learning while earning. The mix of practical and theoretical learning at the NHBC Training Hub, combined with regularly applying my training on site, is excellent. I’m focused on getting my qualification and working my way up to a supervisor role. People don’t always realise a bricklayer can earn on average £50K per year and the house building industry offers excellent career pathways. Closing the skills gap is a great opportunity for me as there is a skills shortage which means I can make a difference and earn a good wage.”

The Home Builders Federation estimates 2,500 bricklayers are needed for every 10,000 homes built. That means around 75,000 are needed to hit the Government’s target of building 300,000 new homes every year by 2025. But there are only 42,000 bricklayers in home building, meaning an extra 33,000 are now needed. The courses through The Hub have been designed with input from across the industry to ensure they meet the needs of employers and employees alike.

Darryl Stewart, responsible for NHBC’s apprentice training programme and hubs, hosted HRH The Princess Royal and commented: “We are honoured to welcome HRH The Princess Royal to the NHBC Training Hub in Cambridge. Bricklaying is at the heart of house building and a hugely important skill. In recent years, house builders have found it more challenging to recruit people for a range of reasons. Historically, it’s an industry which has been perceived as being male-dominated, and currently, it’s also facing the challenge of an ageing workforce. This means we must find ways to encourage people from all walks of life to join the sector which requires an extra 225,000 construction workers by 2027 to meet demand.

“The purpose-built NHBC Training Hub offers a realistic work environment and we’re seeing apprentices completing their training in just 14 months and many with distinctions. It’s a standout difference from the 30-month timescale more traditional learning routes take. What’s more, NHBC’s retention rate after completion is an industry-leading 85%, compared to the industry average of 55%. An apprenticeship in the house-building industry is a pathway into a range of rewarding and well-paid careers that can make a real difference to the available future workforce.

“Our NHBC training hubs and apprenticeship programmes are a key component of NHBC’s ongoing commitment to supporting the next generation of housebuilders and equipping them with the skills to build high-quality new homes. NHBC’s apprenticeships are for everyone, and we’re delighted to see people from all backgrounds coming through, including school leavers, career changers and women wanting to work in house building. It’s never too late to learn a new skill!”

The NHBC Training Hub in partnership with The Hill Group, is part of a national growing network of training facilities by the insurance and warranty provider with others based in Tamworth, Newcastle and Hull. It also plans to open new hubs in Lichfield and Burgess Hill in 2025.

Tom Hill, Executive Director at The Hill Group comments: “It is a privilege to work with the NHBC to deliver this excellent facility. The NHBC Training Hub will prove to be a great success in training the next generation of bricklayers, making a positive impact on the lives of the apprentices who have chosen this rewarding career in this fast-paced and ever-evolving industry.”

A number of the apprentices at the Cambridge Hub, including Tawona, will spend time CIP developments, through the equal partnership between Cambridge City Council and The Hill Group.