On The Tools to Off the Tools: Where a Career in Roofing Can Take You

To recap the BMI Apprentice of the Year competition we look at where a career in roofing can take you, as the judges share their career experiences to give insights to the prospective and future roofers out there.
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On The Tools to Off the Tools: Where a Career in Roofing Can Take You

Working in the roofing industry comes with many misconceptions. Many people think of a career in roofing as being fleeting, as working extremely long hours, and that can discourage people from pursuing it as a career path. This is a shame, as these same people are missing out on what can be an extremely rewarding and exciting career.

It is vital that we find a way to encourage people to consider a potential career in roofing now, as we are currently in the midst of an enormous skill shortage. Not just in the UK, but globally, too.

We at BMI are continually committed to not only bridging the skills gap but to education at all levels of development. It is one of the main reasons the BMI Apprentice of the Year competition is held every year. We invite pitched and flat roofing apprentices from every region of the UK and Ireland to compete for the title of Apprentice of the Year in their respective categories. Moreover, the competition acts as a celebration of new talent, and, for the more developed and experienced roofers, a chance to look back on their own experiences as apprentices too.

At the most recent Apprentice of the Year, the attendees were given the chance to hear speeches from the judges themselves. All seven of the judges have worked in the roofing industry in some capacity for many years. Therefore, their experiences, including the benefits, challenges, and barriers thatbarriers, that they have encountered, can be extremely enlightening to the prospective roofers of today and tomorrow. Each judge’s different experience is an example of one of the different paths a career in roofing can take you. 

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Let’s hear what the judges from the Apprentice of the Year 2022 had to say.

Sarah Burke, Health & Safety Manager at Mitie

Sarah Burke went down the academic route to start her career. After 2 years of a law degree, she eventually started working for Yorkshire bank and volunteered as a constable in the police force. Due to family circumstances, after 12 years in the police force, she wanted a new career. She was offered a job as a training coordinator at Avonside and fell into working in health and safety. After getting the qualifications she moved onto Mitie. At Apprentice of the Year, she noted the importance of networking and gaining experience, of taking opportunities to learn different things.

“Be professional, roofing isn’t just a lower trade. Shine in yourself and people can see you’re doing the best.” 

Sarah Burke

Matt Downs, Editor of Total Contractor

Matt Downs as Editor of Total Contractor magazine Matt works closely with many manufacturers, suppliers, and associations in the roofing industry. From his experience he had this to say about the competition:

“Apprentice of the Year shows that the future is bright. It gives apprentices a chance to tap into the expertise of judges and create relationships with them. That’s what helped me the most. Learning what I could from each job and taking it into the next.”

Matt Downs

Andy King, Managing Director of A.L. King Roofing Ltd

Andy King has been a roofing installer for nearly 40 years. Andy always knew he wanted to work in construction and started working in the roofing industry in 1985. His near 4-decade career includes highlights of working up the ranks of the NFRC and running his own business. 

Andy’s biggest piece of advice to apprentices was “If you’re striving to be the best you can be, there’s a long-term career in this industry. If you get an opportunity like working with the NFRC then take it, as it can really add value to their career and experiences.”

Andy King

Cieran Peel-Price, Former Apprentice of the Year finalist

Cieran Peel-Price is a testament to the Apprentice of the Year competition. As a former finalist, Cieran joined roofing fairly late compared to most other apprentices. After injuring his knees in the army, he wasn’t too sure what was next for his career. His passion for construction was discovered when he started doing some renovations on his own house. Bricklaying led him to a roofing apprenticeship, which led him to Apprentice of the Year in 2018, he has been a judge twice since then and also trained in flat roofing. As an installer whose career is still developing, Cieran is a perfect example to new or prospective roofers of what a roofing career can look like. 

“As someone whose roofing career started through an apprenticeship, I can truly see the value they offer. I was able to gain experience that I used throughout my career, and I hope you can see the importance of what you’re doing now to set you on the right path for you and your future.”

Cieran Peel-Price

Hayley Reynolds, Director of Construction at Itech Roofworks Ltd

Hayley Reynolds comes from a family of roofers and joined the family company at 18 in an office role. Unexcited at the prospect of working on VAT and quoting jobs as a career, she got put on a course and spent the next 15 years as a flat roofer, which she really enjoyed. She now runs the family business with her sister, has a team of 10 to 15 employees, and finds a level of pride in the hard but rewarding work.

Hayley added, “this competition really highlights the skills you need throughout your roofing career. From communicating to clients to installing a roof correctly, over these last two days I’ve seen you demonstrating what you need to be successful in your careers, wherever they may take you.” 

Hayley Reynolds

Kay Rose, CEO of the Institute of Roofing

Kay Rose is the CEO of the institute of roofing. Like many, roofing was not originally in the pipeline, she started out wanting to be a classical guitar performer, an accountant, or even a nurse. In fact, she even has a music degree. Kay Started working in the construction industry by working an administrative role at Jewsons, she would later move to a sales manager role in a flat roofing company, where she worked for 11 years with contractors, specifiers, and architects. She later got a job at the NFRC and joined the board of the Institute of Roofing, where she is now CEO. Having had a varied and interesting career path Kay is a great example of the other routes apprentices can go down.

Kay stated, “You’re all here because your apprentices on the tools, but there are so many varied career paths, don’t get pigeonholed.” She noted the importance of asking questions, of approaching people in the industry, and of leaving your career options open.

Kay Rose

Andy Rowlands Managing Director of Rowlands Roofing Ltd

Interestingly, roofing was not Andy Rowlands’ first career choice. Despite that, making the most of every opportunity that presents itself is a big part of his ethos, and so it’s no surprise that he’s gone from working on slating, tiling, and lead work to the Managing Director of an award-winning roofing company. As an advocate for training and development, Andy added “I really want to see the stigma broken that roofing is only half of a trade. So it’s been fantastic to see that the training you’ve had so far has really paid off and you’re all on the path to a rewarding and prosperous career”.

Competitions such as the BMI’ Apprentice of The Year are instrumental in bridging the skills gap, not just in the roofing industry but in the larger construction industry too. It is important, therefore, that at these events we paint the full picture of what a career in the roofing sector can lead to and provide, so that prospective apprentices are not dissuaded from pursuing it as a career path. We would like to thank our judges for facilitating this year’s competition and inspiring all of the young roofers, both those in attendance and those who will attend in years to come.

Andy Rowlands

Find out more about the training and development available at the BMI Academy