Training opportunities in Erith kick started as first apprentices hired for Park East development | Wates

The first local apprentices have been hired to help regenerate the Park East site in Erith as Wates Residential supports a further seven people with its Building Futures training programme, also held last week in Erith.

The £95 million project, which is being delivered by Wates Residential and Orbit, in partnership with the London Borough of Bexley, will deliver 320 new homes in Erith of which 80 per cent will for affordable rent and shared ownership. As part of the project, the partners have pledged to kick start training opportunities in the area by hiring at least 31 apprentices and at least 25 people in full time employment from the local area.

The first two apprentices are Sam, 25 from Welling, and Sarah, 21 from Bexley, who both join the project as apprentice demolition operatives with Wates Residential’s site subcontractor – Erith Group. Their responsibilities include removing the internal fittings the buildings before they are demolished and ensuring the waste materials are properly sorted and recycled. Sam explained:

“Before starting this role, I didn’t realise how much gets recycled during the demolition of a building!”

Sam had previously studied a bricklaying course at Bromley College, but decided on a career change soon after finishing his studies. He was encouraged to apply for an apprenticeship by Bexley Mind, who supported him throughout the process.

Commenting on his new role, Sam said:

“This apprenticeship has given me a sense of belonging in society. I feel like I’ve been given a second chance to get my career on track and that I am moving in the right direction now.

I love the physical side of my role and the great team that I work with. Everyone at Erith and Wates Residential have been so supportive. The health and safety across the whole Wates site is outstanding and really shows that people care.”

Thanks to his new position working with one of the largest demolition contractors in the world, Sam is now saving for his driving licence and aiming to move out of his parents’ home soon.

“This is the best job I’ve ever had […] I am now excited for my future.”

Describing her role, Sarah said:

“I didn’t think I would progress as quickly as I have and feel truly grateful for the opportunity… Everyone on site has been great with me and it has really changed my perceptions as a woman working on a construction site.”

Alongside her apprenticeship, Sarah was awarded her Certificate of Competence for Demolition Operatives and has received additional training in asbestos awareness, manual handling and abrasive wheel certificates. She plans to work her way up through the ranks and sees herself in demolition management in the future.

In addition, another of the unique training and employment initiatives that Wates Residential has brought to Erith is its Building Futures programme, which helps unemployed adults gain valuable practical experience and employability coaching to reinvigorate their career prospects.

On Friday 25th, seven students successfully graduated from the course. Their two-week training involved visits to both the West Street and Park East developments to gain hands on experience of a construction site. The graduation was celebrated with a certificate presentation ceremony attended by Managing Director of Wates Residential Developments Group David Brocklebank and Leader of the London Borough of Bexley, Cllr Teresa O’Neill OBE.

Paul Ellis, a participant on the programme took part in Building Futures in Erith last week. He described the experience:

“I have really enjoyed my two weeks at the Building Futures programme. I have learnt new skills and the tutor from Ixion was so helpful. I would highly recommend that anyone considering a career in construction. I can’t believe how much Wates invests into this programme! I would like to thank them, as I now feel like I can kick-start my career and am feeling positive for my future.”

The redevelopment of Park East comes after partners Wates Residential and Orbit recently completed six years of work on the nearby Larner Road estate, transforming it into the award-winning Erith Park. Throughout Phase 1 and 2 of work, seven tower blocks were replaced with 587 medium-rise homes, including 329 homes for affordable rent, 114 for private sale and 144 for shared ownership.

Glen Roberts, Operations Director from Wates Residential, said:

“We are really pleased that we could help kick start Sarah and Sam’s careers – they are both extremely hard working and are making a positive difference to the Park East project.

As the project progresses, we look forward to welcoming more apprentices on site as we continue our work to deliver hundreds of high quality new homes for Erith.”

Caroline Field, Head of Regeneration for Obit Homes South, commented:

“We are delighted that the Park East regeneration is benefitting the wider community through providing great new opportunities for local people to embark upon rewarding careers.”

Cllr Teresa O’Neill OBE, The Leader of the London Borough of Bexley, said:

“The partnership pledge to support local people by providing training opportunities and routes into the workplace is a fantastic part of this new development in Erith. The people receiving their certificates were a credit to the ‘Building Futures’ programme.

I hope that their time spent at Park East will encourage them to go on to build on their new skills. My congratulations also go to the two young people who have been hired as apprentices. They will play a key role in a major development in their own borough.”

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