From apprentice to managing director
Szerelmey Restoration managing director Paul Morris started his construction career as an apprentice - 40 years later he is leading the company. Find out about his journey from an apprenticeship to leader and why apprenticeships are the perfect start to a construction career.
How old were you when you started your apprenticeship with Szerelmey?
16 years old - I've now been with the company for 40 years.
Why do you think coming into the business as an apprentice is so beneficial?
I feel it is vitally important that apprentices are taught the correct methods for the applicable task including using the correct materials for the job in hand.
It is important to learn all aspects of our trade and the modern apprenticeships tend to cover this. They not only focus on the practical elements of the chosen trade but also touch on other related trades - for example, our stone restorers would cover a section on stone cleaning as well as the stone restoration element.
They also focus heavily on Health and Safety, including training such as First Aid, PASMA, IPAF and PPE related courses, all very important elements of our trade.
What do you think the major differences are of being an apprentice from when you started 40 years ago to now?
Back then it was City & Guilds which I believe focused more on the practical side than the current NVQ does. The courses tended to be a lot longer than the current NVQ with a lot of time spent in the classroom learning the practical elements.
Nowadays the practical elements are learnt on site under the guidance of experienced tradesmen, passing on their wealth of knowledge.
My apprenticeship was in plastering which was at South East London Technical College. The college and Szerelmey had a close relationship where the courses were designed to specifically meet our requirements. For example, the tasks we had to undertake were modified where we carried them out using sand and lime as opposed to traditional plaster.
Health and Safety back in the early 80s although vitally important, was only really just coming to the forefront.
What would be your advice to young people now who might be thinking about a career in construction?
Personally, I think starting as an apprentice is a great experience as you get to learn all aspects of the trade and gain huge amounts of knowledge.
As a past apprentice with Szerelmey, and then moving into the management side, I have been passing on my knowledge and experience to the younger members of the team which has hopefully assisted their careers greatly.