Having your talents recognised in prestigious national award is always a great career moment, and Connor Pringle is riding high, having been Highly Commended in the flat roofing category of the 2019 BMI Apprentice of the Year competition.
As you might expect, New Charter Building Company apprentice, Connor Pringle is pretty chuffed about his recent performance at the BMI Apprentice of the Year competition. He was only a whisker away from clinching the title in the flat roofing category – so close, in fact, that he was an absolute shoe-in for a Highly Commended award from the judges.
Inevitably, Connor is supremely upbeat about the experience and what it gave him. “Entering the competition and getting into the final 20 was great and that close to winning overall confirms I’ve found a trade that I’ve got a talent for,” he says.
Competing against the top apprentices in the country boosted his ambitions and confirmed that he has a future in roofing. “I’m more confident now, I know what I’m doing and I’ve got more faith in my own judgment, so if I spot a problem of any sort I know that I’ll be right and I’ll know how to fix it,” he continues. “Taking part in the competition cemented the fact that I now know that I want to set up my own business one day and have multiple and have a few vans on the go – maybe even become a household name!”
Finding a trade was very important for Connor: it is why he left the Army despite having been set on a military career since being a boy. “I’d always wanted to go into the military, so I joined straight from school and I loved every second of it but, then I realised that I’d have nothing to fall back on,” he says. “Because I was less than 18 years old I was able to leave and go job-hunting.”
So the plan was simply to find a job where he would be trained, qualify and then re-join the Army. The job he got was almost by chance .
The New Charter Building Company (NCBC – part of the Jigsaw Homes Group) had a vacancy for an apprentice roofer and fitted Connor’s needs on several counts. It is based in Dukinfield in Greater Manchester and so only a short distance from his home, and it is a large company with the resources to match. NCBC operates as a direct labour organisation providing services for the Jigsaw Homes Group, which owns more than 33,000 in the North West and the East Midlands.
For Connor it was clear from the start that he had find something that he really enjoyed and that roofing was the trade for him.
“I enjoy the graft and the variety – every roof’s different and you have to think about how you approach each one. Because I’m interested in the work, I picked up the skills quite quickly. It’s also an outdoor job, which is important because I couldn’t cope with being stuck in an office,” he admits. “Plus, you get to meet so many different people every day.”
NCBC sent Connor to Bolton College as part of his training and roofing tutor Luke O’Gorman soon spotted his potential and suggested that Connor should enter the BMI Apprentice of the Year competition.
“I didn’t think anything of it, so it was a surprise when Luke rang me to say that I’d been shortlisted,” Connor recounts, “though he did say he thought I’d have a good chance of winning.”
Connor’s manager, Paul Fisher, was not surprised. “Connor’s pretty mature and good at his work so when the college rang up to ask if he could have two days off to compete I was pleased but not shocked,” says Paul, who is the contracts manager for investment works.
But the important part of the Apprentice of the Year is that the competition is also an education in itself, as Connor found out. “It was really amazing,” he says, “You learnt so much and got such an insight into running a business. It’s all well and good having the skills to lay a roof, but you need the ability to tell the customer about any issue, what the solution is and how to go on from there.”
And this is one of the reasons that Luke encourages his students to enter the competition. “We saw the difference in those who entered last year – they were more confident and they could present themselves that much better when they came back to college.”
And, Connor’s boss, Paul has much the same impression. “He’s more confident in his abilities, his customer service skills have improved and he’s more the complete package,” he notes.
In fact, Paul reckons that Connor could follow a similar path to another colleague who did well in a previous competition and is now training to be a site manager. While Connor may follow that career path, the competition, which involved many of the skills required to run your own business, means is also has another direction in mind. “It might take five to 10 years but I really would like to set up my own business, starting in Greater Manchester and then branching out into the rest of Northern England,” he says.
“The thing with roofs is that when people have a problem they don’t let it fester, they want it sorted, so it’s not like other trades where you might be brought in just to give a price. So, if you get a name for reliability and good workmanship then I reckon you can do well and grow a business quickly.”
And that goes to show that contestants in the BMI Apprentice of the Year competition will always come away with something far more valuable than the prizes, something you cannot put a price on: ambition.