New Academy Plugs the Gap in Current Roof Training Provision

You only have to look at the profiles of current trainees to recognise that this is no ordinary roof training centre.  Ex-military personnel and ex-offenders figure high on the list of clients eager to learn new roofing skills.

According to Andy Bird, managing director of Colchester-based roofing company GLA Roofing Ltd, and the GLA Training Academy (GLATA), it is their target audience who will breathe life back into ailing roofing recruitment.

He said: “Since we set up the company in 2004, I have seen the numbers of young people entering the roofing industry deteriorate dramatically, resulting in huge shortages in labour.

“One reason for this shortage is that the school-leaving age has been raised from 16 to 18.  When a roofer used to take on a 16-year-old, he/she was aware that the youngster would not be initially useful or productive and compensated for this by paying the school-leaver a basic low wage for the first few weeks.  The trainee was content with this, as this wage amounted to far more than pocket money or a paper-round wage.  The roofer was happy, because the initial financial investment in someone who might decide after a few bruising weeks that roofing is not for them, was fairly low.

“But that was then.  Today, new trainees entering construction are over 18.  They want, demand even, an adult wage and roofers are extremely reluctant to pay the wages expected.  This has resulted in roofers not wanting to take people on and prospective youngsters not getting the opportunities once offered.

“GLATA is removing the obstacle of young adults entering roofing and then leaving the industry after only a few weeks due to lack of enthusiasm, lack of encouragement, lack of training and lack of a decent wage.  We teach the basic skills needed for a new worker to be valuable to their employer from day one: to be able to use hand tools correctly and efficiently, carry materials, have product knowledge, and carry out tasks such as felt and battening, tiling, slating, cutting, installation of dry fix products and being able to walk over a pitched roof.”

The training leads them to formal certificated qualifications in working safely at height, manual handling, abrasive wheel training and asbestos awareness.  At the end of the course they will be ready to take the CITB Health, Safety and Environment test, which is the main requirement for qualifying for a CSCS Labourer card.

And while the training is taking place in the workshops and classroom, behind the scenes the GLATA team are contacting potential employers in the trainees’ home area to set up job interviews at the end of the course.

Courses can be tailored, from five days to four weeks, or from one day per week over six or eight weeks, according to clients’ needs. GLATA can also offer training at clients’ own premises using purpose-made rigs, and plans are being finalised for the first ten-day course at HM Prison in Chelmsford .

“In addition to young people, this foundation training is ideal for those who find themselves without a trade who may have drifted in and out of employment for many years, those that perhaps have been in the services and need a new career, or that need a stepping stone to gain a decent wage,” said Andy.

Current clients and partners include HMP, Project Nova (military veterans) and pupil referral units for youngsters not interested in an academic further education.  The Academy has also designed a bespoke five-day course for Clarion Futures.  Part of Clarion Housing Group, they offer their residents in-house training on health and safety and obtain CSCS cards before enrolling in the GLA TA intensive five-day practical course.  At the end of the course, the GLA team will have secured interviews for the learners with local roofing firms.

This year Andy gained his TQUK Level 3 qualification in education and training, which allows him to teach new learners the skills needed in tiling and slating.  Tom Bird, a contracts manager for GLA Roofing, assists in supervising training sessions for the academy, and more teaching staff are currently being recruited.  Financial Director, Lesley Addy, who has been involved in the roofing industry since 1990, is a founder member and one of GLA Group’s owners.  Last but not least, office manager Sharon Freeman ensures all bookings and paperwork are in order and deals with the day-to-day administration work.

Official Launch
Not only has the GLA TA team received huge support throughout the academy’s development, they were delighted to welcome guests from the roofing and other sectors to its official launch on October 11.

“We have received a great deal of positive support prior to the launch day from various groups and partners, including CITB, NFRC, Essex County Council, DWP and Clacton MP Giles Watling, who was happy to learn how to carry a load of tiles on his shoulder! “ said Andy.

“However,  it was especially pleasing to welcome two other local MPs, Priti Patel and Sir Bernard Jenkin – who shared his ability to carry out torch-on felting –  to the launch event.  They reiterated the need to assist new people into tiling and slating and we are grateful for their ongoing belief in us.”

For further information on the GLA Training Academy, please visit,  email, or telephone 01206 845000.



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