Tradition, training and talent – how apprenticeships will future-proof our industry

To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week, Managing Director of Site Solutions Jason Reed, takes a look at the tradition of apprenticeships. Reflecting on his own experience as an apprentice and looking at how far the training style has come, his latest blog considers how vital apprenticeships are for the future of the industry. 


Apprenticeships in the UK are a longstanding tradition. Traced back to medieval craft guilds, the master would teach the apprentice a craft in return for food and shelter. With the first national apprenticeship standards introduced in 1563, it’s no surprise that this way of teaching, albeit now modernised, is so engrained into the culture of how we train the next generation of trades. 

By the 1900s apprenticeships had spread to the newer industries of engineering, shipbuilding, plumbing and electrical work and both World Wars saw a boom in uptake; by the 1960s a third of boys were leaving school to become apprentices. I’m pleased to say that was very much a product of its time and apprenticeships are now an option for people from all backgrounds, genders and ages. 

Like many of my friends and colleagues, I began my working career as an apprentice. In 1986, I was lucky enough to gain an apprenticeship with Higgs and Hill (who later became BAM) and enrolled at Wellingborough Tresham College on a three-year CITB-funded City and Guilds course. There was a skills shortage and the cyclical demand for trades had returned, opening up opportunities for apprentices. 

In the past, when industry activity levels reduced so did the demand for apprentices, with the reduction creating a void of new entrants to the industry which fuelled future skills shortages. BAM and the wider industry have learnt from the past. We now see a consistent intake, taking on structured courses which set up an apprentice for life - while providing the industry with highly trained, experienced people. 

BAM staff celebrate National Apprentice Week 2023

When I left school, very few people I knew went to university. An apprenticeship was a great option to gain both a skill and formal qualifications, along with lots of life experience. For me and many of my colleagues, this route has provided us with a consistent income and a stepping stone to a wide range of opportunities. I’ve worked across the UK and in New Zealand and I have only been out of work for one day in over thirty years!

The popularity of apprenticeships is once again growing in momentum. With higher university tuition fees and the current cost of living crisis, it’s easy to see how the “earn-as-you-learn” approach is appealing to those beginning their careers. An apprenticeship offers the same level of qualification(with NVQs and degrees on offer), a wage throughout, real-world experience, and with BAM – a career waiting for you on completion. Apprenticeships at BAM make fulfilling careers in an exciting industry accessible to everyone. 

Apprenticeships have been around almost as long as the concept of trades has. I am grateful that I started my career in the way many did before me and, I hope, many will after me. The core remains the same, a master teaching their apprentice the skills for a successful career. It’s up to us, as the “masters”, to ensure that what we offer is future fit, offering opportunities to learn how to do things right, while adjusting to an ever-changing digital world. Apprenticeships offer accessible careers while ensuring a pipeline of talent. 

It’s our responsibility to keep the tradition alive. 

National Apprentice Week 2023 - BAM

About the author

Jason Reid - BAM

Jason Reed

LinkedIn    Email

Jason was appointed as Managing Director of BAM Site Solutions in 2022 and is responsible for the management and development of our in house plant and equipment operation.

He originally joined the company in 1986 as an apprentice electrician. After a period away working in the electrical and service engineering sector, he re-joined BAM in 2007 and progressed through a number of roles from Electrical Contracts Manager to General Manager.

With over 30 years’ experience working in the construction industry, Jason brings sound technical knowledge and business acumen to ensure BAM Site Solutions provides a high quality, competitive  support service to all of our sites, and leverages best value and innovation from our strong supply chain.