NG Bailey hits out at careers advice in schools

ONE of Britain’s biggest engineering contractors has hit out at the lack of careers advice in secondary schools.

Cal Bailey
Cal Bailey

Cal Bailey, a director and shareholder at Ilkley-based NG Bailey, said the guidance given to young people particularly on vocational training is “inadequate” and “unsatisfactory”.

He made the comments as the £365m-turnover family business published its eighth annual sustainability report, revealing it has doubled both its apprenticeship intake and the number of apprenticeship qualification schemes over the last two years.

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NG Bailey has also engaged with nearly 1,500 school children through its ‘Inspire’ programme to provide practical experience of jobs in science, technology, engineering and maths-related fields.

Mr Bailey, who is group sustainability director, told The Yorkshire Post: “Schools have a duty to give careers advice but all the specific funding has been removed so they have far, far less than they used to.

“Our survey of apprentices showed that very few people that ended up as an apprentice learned about apprenticeships from school. We think that is very inadequate indeed. Oftsed does inspect schools on careers advice but it is a very minor part. Headteachers tell us they can ignore it with impunity.

“We think that is a very unsatisfactory situation because school children need to know about the quality of opportunities available to them. For many, it is appropriate to go into an apprenticeship. The people who come to us enormously enjoy what they do and have very high success rates. I think schools ought to do a better job with this.”

NG Bailey currently employs 160 apprentices, representing six per cent of its 2,500-strong workforce, and spends £3m a year on learning and development. The group said it has trained more than 5,500 apprentices since 1969.

Mr Bailey said the Inspire programme aims to make science, technology, engineering and maths subjects “fun” to encourage more pupils to choose STEM subjects at GCSE level. He hopes that 5,000 will have taken part by 2018.

He said those who have taken part have changed their views of an engineer from someone who is male, in dirty clothing and unpaid to someone who is intelligent, fun and well paid.

The scheme started in Yorkshire and has extended to Manchester and Bristol.

NG Bailey’s report provides an update on the group’s sustainability strategy One Approach, which was launched two years ago. It shows that the energy services division helped Land Securities and Morrisons reduce carbon emissions by 75,000 tonnes.

Mr Bailey said NG Bailey has reduced its carbon footprint by 43 per cent since it started measuring in 2008-09.

He said: “All businesses have a responsibility on climate change. The responsibility is to work hard at it and make sure you are not contributing negatively to the world we live in. The opportunity is to reduce costs to the business. We are saving a lot of money through this.”

NG Bailey has diversified its business in recent years to reduce its reliance on the construction market.

The group has shrunk its dominant building division and grown its infrastructure and services divisions so they ne now constitute around a third each of combined turnover.

Mr Bailey said the business is “much better spread and far more resilient”.

He said NG Bailey has seen a pick-up in its markets.

He added: “It is not the kind of recovery that makes me feel super confident or worried it will end. It is much more uncertain. But all our principal markets and all our core businesses are performing well and on budget.”

Mr Bailey said the group remains 100 per cent family owned, with 17 shareholders, and there are no plans to introduce any external capital.