My experience as an apprentice

How a roofing apprenticeship unlocked career potential. Charlie Plant, winner of BMI Icopal Apprentice of the Year in Flat Roofing 2023, reflects. Apprenticeships are growing in almost every industry – and it’s no surprise, given they can be the key that unlocks an individuals’ potential.
Charlie Plant, Sussex Asphalte, BMI Icopal Apprentice of the Year in Flat Roofing 2023

In the roofing sector, a successful apprenticeship won’t just form the foundation for a successful career, but leave a lasting legacy. The annual BMI Apprentice of the Year competition is the perfect celebration of this. Bringing together the most promising talent coming into the industry, the event provides an opportunity to be inspired and demonstrate skills – with the winner taking home a cash prize, access to 3-years of free training and a prestigious title for their CV.

Following the 2023 competition, we caught up with Charlie Plant, Apprentice of the Year in the Icopal flat roofing category, to talk about his experience, how he got into roofing and what he hopes to achieve in the future.

Embarking on a career in roofing

Charlie’s always been hands-on. Before embarking on a career in roofing, he was carving out a career as a landscaper – following in the footsteps of family members. That vision, to change people’s environments for the better, wasn’t lost when he began talking with the Director of Sussex Asphalt and shifted focus by looking to a career in roofing.

After seven months on the job, supporting the team on individual roofing projects, Charlie got onto his chosen training course. Delivered by Simian – an established apprenticeship provider – the two-year course put Charlie on the track to success, backing up on-the-job experience with structured training.

“Getting started with Sussex Asphalt and joining my course with Simian was what kickstarted everything,” Charlie said. “After seven months of labouring and getting to know the team, I was on the course and getting my training started. From that point, the team got me straight onto using the tools and learning really quickly.”

Futureproofing the industry with apprentices

Leaving the comfort zone – becoming Apprentice of the Year

After being shortlisted for Apprentice of the Year 2023, Charlie was following a path previously walked by two colleagues at Sussex Asphalt and pursuing an opportunity to demonstrate his passion and roofing ability.

Charlie told us: “I’m not really a competition guy, so getting involved in Apprentice of the Year was really out of my comfort zone. You’re away from home for two nights, and you don’t know that what you’re doing is right, but you just do your best in every challenge.”

Over the two days of competition, Charlie – alongside the other apprentices – took on a series of challenges. From a practical patch repair task, through to group work and detection testing, the event tested all areas for the apprentices.

Charlie continued: “When we arrived on Wednesday, we heard from the judges who told us their stories and how they got to where they are now. It was really inspiring to hear their perspectives and insights – a great start to my experience.

“From there, we were into the challenges, doing practical tasks, working together in groups and even presenting back to the judges, treating them as customers to explain how we were tackling individual jobs. While the individual tasks can be challenging, they’re built around the basics and are designed for people of all capabilities and experience.

“After two days, I was absolutely thrilled when I found out I’d won the competition and the experience has really opened my eyes to the career possibilities that are open to me.”

Charlie Plant at BMI Apprentice of the Year 2023

Expanding horizons

Just like a successful apprenticeship, the BMI Apprentice of the Year competition is designed to bring out the best in entrants – and set them on the path to success in their careers.

Previous winners have gone on to carve out their own paths in the industry, with some establishing their own roofing businesses and even providing opportunities for new apprentices. Past participants have also gone away with new-found skills and confidence, setting them on course to complete their training and strengthen their careers.

Charlie added: “An apprenticeship is hard work. Early starts are the norm and there’s lots of learning to do, but the future is really exciting. I’m really excited to build my own future, just like the judges, and maybe even train up my own apprentices one day.

“There are plenty of avenues that I could go down. Starting my own business, going down the management route and running my own jobs, or even going into surveying or leak testing. Just the experience of being on a roof and really understanding how it works can unlock other opportunities.”

Just like a successful roof, every career is built layer by layer. Apprenticeships, backed by proven training providers and employers who are investing in the next generation, are an ideal starting point for those embarking on the early stages of their careers. Through our BMI Apprentice of the Year competition, that’s exactly what we’re celebrating – the people who are building up the next generation and strengthening the industry for decades to come.

Charlie Plant, BMI Icopal Apprentice of the Year in Flat Roofing 2023

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Enter the BMI Apprentice of the Year 2024

Both flat and pitched roofing apprentices are invited to submit entries online by 26th April. Up to 20 finalists will be selected in May and invited to compete in the two-day final at the BMI Academy in July where the winners will be crowned.

Entrants must be a roofing apprentice or student currently working towards qualified status. The Competition is open to residents of the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland aged over 16 years.

BMI Apprentice of the Year 2024: Enter here
BMI Apprentice of the Year 2024 : 2023 Finalists and Winners