A FAMILY run York brickwork firm has been named as the best in the country for its work with apprentices.

Mitchell & Urwin Stone & Brickwork, based in Bishopthorpe, which works for the UK’s largest house builders, has beaten more than 4,000 other construction businesses across the UK to win the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) Apprentice SME Employer Award 2017.

The award, presented by BBC’s Steph McGovern in London earlier this month, recognises the exceptional efforts the company has made in recruiting and training fresh talent into the building profession to help plug the skills gap.

Mitchell & Urwin has invested significantly in its Apprentice Academy by taking on 49 apprentices in the last three years.

This means 25 per cent of its bricklaying workforce are apprentices, while 10 per cent of the site workforce act as mentors to the young recruits after receiving CITB training on how on to coach and inspire young people.

The company has appointed an Academy HR manager to oversee the programme and it recently recruited its first female bricklaying apprentice; unusual in an industry where 99 per cent of the workforce is male.

Founder Richard Urwin, who started out as a bricklayer aged 17, felt that something had to be done to ensure there are enough well trained bricklayers to meet the growing industry demand.

He said: “The government wants more homes to be built, but there simply aren’t enough bricklayers to get the work done.

“The construction industry has an ageing workforce and many young people are put off by the stigma of pursuing a trade, instead of going to university.

“We set up our Apprentice Academy because we’re passionate about the industry and want to give something back.”

The success of Mitchell & Urwin’s Apprentice Academy came to the CITB’s attention after one of its representatives visited a construction site in Hull. Two of the apprentices raved about the support they were receiving from the company. As a result, Mitchell & Urwin was one of just 25 shortlisted companies from across Great Britain put forward for consideration for the award.

Sarah Beale, chief executive of CITB said: “Huge congratulations to Mitchell and Urwin, who I had the pleasure of meeting, on their win.

“They are a great example of an employer that’s really developing their skills fit for a modern construction industry. There are fantastic opportunities in the sector and employers like Mitchell and Urwin will be first in line to take full advantage.”