THE SKILLBUILD heats held in May at Bolton College were remarkable for more than just the outstanding roofing skills displayed by the eight apprentice roofers taking part.
These heats marked a historical milestone as competitor, Bradley Heffron, is the second generation at P Duckworth Roofing Services to compete.
Some 16 years ago owner of the company, Paul Duckworth won gold at the SkillBuild finals in 2003, going on the following year to represent Great Britain in the roofing team at the international IFD Roofing Championships in Poland.
In those days, SkillBuild competitors worked in pairs. Paul worked with another apprentice, Dave Ward and, like Bradley, Paul did his NVQ training at Bolton College with tutors, Ray Hulme and Stuart. Another constant feature between the generations is Bob Coutts who then, just as now, oversaw SkillBuild judging and coached the GB team for the international championships in 2004.
Remembering his experiences of SkillBuild, Paul says: “It was pretty nerve-wracking, but it was good experience as we had four days up in Glasgow at the finals. We didn’t do regional heats then, but went straight to the finals.”
Giving tips to Bradley, Paul adds, “We know he’s good enough, that’s why he’s here. So, it’s just a question of remembering what he’s been taught and not getting too nervous. But I think it’s a lot tougher doing it on your own. I think when I did it, two heads were better than one – if you’re not doing something perfectly or you miss something, the other one can pick up on that.”
Encouraging the next generation
Paul started his career in roofing at Ibis Roofing in Manchester, training to NVQ Level 3 in Slating and Tiling. At just 21 years-old, Paul set up his own roofing contracting business in Middleton, Manchester and after weathering the 2007 crash by sub-contracting for RL Lovatts for two years, resumed his own business for the last decade. Mostly working on new build, domestic, insurance work and GRP flat roofing contracts, Paul has become so successful that he now employs nine others in the company, including two apprentices.
If Bradley does well at this year’s SkillBuild final in November, Paul says he’d encourage him to go on to compete at the international competition if Bradley is selected. Nowadays, the IFD competition is more evenly designed to bring out the best across all national teams, but when Paul competed, the GB team were expected to demonstrate roofing methods that were standard in Europe but unfamiliar to the UK team, such as constructing copper gutters.
Nevertheless, Paul remembers his experiences representing GB with fondness: “It was a great experience and we had a great time in Poland. I think it really boosted my confidence and it’s a good selling point for me even now. When you tell people that you represented Britain at the international roofing competition they’re impressed and it’s a feather in your cap.
“For my apprentices, I tell them to go as far as you can. My trophies are still on display in my front room and they’ll be there as stories I can tell my children.”
This year’s national SkillBuild finalists will be announced after the last heat on 13 June at South Devon College. The finals will take place on 21-23 November, 2019 at the NEC in Birmingham.