Cllr Nick Forbes, the leader of Newcastle City Council, recently visited JT Dove Builders’ Merchant at its head office and main branch in Newburn, Newcastle, to meet with eight graduates from the company’s trainee scheme and present awards to two long serving employees.

During the visit, which was facilitated by the Builders Merchant Federation, Cllr Nick Forbes also met with managing director of JT Dove, Steve Robinson. They discussed the importance of investment in staff from apprentices to long serving members, and the value of SME builders and allied trades in creating and retaining local jobs and growth.

Mr Robinson said: “Cllr Forbes and the JT Dove management team examined the role, value and importance of the supply chain to north east England’s economy, where further investment is needed in vocational training and skills including apprentices. As a company we put our heart into this and it is how we could have eight apprenticeship graduates ready to meet our guest.”

The 19 to 25 year olds have trained for the last two years on an intensive training course, that saw the new appointees doing group training, personal projects, experience days, visits to manufacturers and a team building event. On a day-to-day basis each of the trainees operated in their own branch under the watchful eye of their branch manager.

The applicants had to have a minimum education standard of five GCSE’s, but personality and understanding of the JT Dove ethos was more important as the merchant grows its own and therefore has a high number of personnel who have enjoyed many years of long service.

Among those members of long serving staff are Val Walton who has been with the company for 40 years, and Margaret Ornsby who has been part of the team for 45 years. Both Ms Walton and Ms Ornsby were delighted to receive their awards from Cllr Forbes.

Cllr Forbes said: “I am committed to ensuring that Newcastle is a working city where there are good quality jobs for everyone. Construction is going to be an important part of our economic development – particularly as we work with developers to build more houses, modernise existing homes and invest in the roads and infrastructure.

“I am keen to learn from a key supplier about how future prospects look to them. And I want to learn more about how companies like JT Dove are investing in young apprentices to make sure they are equipped with the skills they need for the future.”

Cllr Forbes and the management of JT Dove also looked at the vital role of builders’ merchants in a re-invigorated construction and housing industry, the economic outlook for core markets in both newbuild and repair, maintenance and improvement, and the importance of merchants in explaining new products, applications and regulation. They also looked at how to boost economic activity and balance housing demand with supply and regeneration

Cllr Forbes concluded: “We have negotiated a devolution deal with the government that begins to transfer responsibility for skills development to the local level, because with a better understanding of what is happening in the north east we are better placed than central government to match skills programmes to the needs of local companies like JT Dove.

“The north east economy is built on successful firms like JT Dove and I believe it is really important for politicians to fully understand what we can do to help businesses like this thrive, be that through close working relationships with local businesses or longer term by working with schools in our learning challenge.”