From struggling student to thriving construction apprentice

For Ollie Harper Nash from Leeds, living with an undiagnosed learning difficulty made for a challenging journey through secondary school, with him teetering on the edge of expulsion.

But after years of childhood unheaval, 18-year-old Ollie has finally found a new lease of life … in his role as an apprentice.

Ollie had regularly moved from school to school, adapting to new environments and friendships when what he really needed was stability and consistency.

At one point in Year 10, he had to be home-schooled as he waited to move to a new school. His anchor and source of strength through these upheavals was the steadfast bond he shared with his dad, as well as the support of his two older brothers.

“It was a difficult time in my life, having to constantly change schools and struggling to fit in and make new friends. I don’t know how I would have coped without the support of my family, and my dad has been an absolute rock for me. Although I’ve always lived in Leeds, I would visit Wales during the summer holidays to spend time with him,” Ollie says.

During this time, it became clear to his family that the school he was at could not provide the support he needed to cope with his unique learning style, and he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The condition brought its own set of challenges, but Ollie has been managing it with ADHD medication for about five years now, which has considerably increased his productivity levels and concentration.

Although Ollie did not achieve his quest to attain his maths and English qualifications, he remained undaunted and began to explore various work placements, from healthcare to retail. Ultimately, he found his calling in the world of building materials when he secured an apprenticeship with Dewsbury Road-based commercial plumbing and pipeline merchant, Mathewson & Rosemond Ltd.

Working as a builders’ merchant apprentice, Ollie has discovered a passion for hands-on, practical work. He wanted to do something that would challenge him beyond his comfort zone, and the apprenticeship has proven to be the right mix of practical learning and academic study.

Ollie says of his working experience so far:

“My responsibilities include overseeing document scanning, managing goods receiving, and providing valuable assistance to the warehouse manager.

“Of course, I have ambitions extending beyond warehousing and in due time I would like to explore other facets of the business, including sales, accounts, procurement, and e-commerce,” he adds.

In his apprenticeship journey, Ollie is learning the value of paying attention to detail and maintaining accurate data, recognising that even minor errors can have far-reaching implications. He is demonstrating growth in teamwork and has acquired an understanding of the diverse skill sets of his colleagues and how to work and communicate with them effectively to deliver a great team performance.

Ollie’s weekly schedule comprises three hours a week for his apprenticeship studies split between Mondays and Fridays. His mentors, Oliver Wilson and Cameron Smith – who are also his line managers – are guiding him through the intricacies of the business and patiently sharing their vast knowledge and expertise of the builders merchant sector. Their expertise provides a sturdy foundation upon which Ollie can build his promising career.

Ollie speaks highly of the advantages of the apprenticeship approach, saying:

“I’ve always preferred hands-on learning over traditional classrooms. The apprenticeship approach allows me to learn and apply the skills in a real-world setting. I can see immediate results and make a visible impact on the business.”

Ollie’s apprenticeship programme is delivered by LEAP, who specialise in the construction industry. Leading builders’ merchant buying society, NMBS, is working with LEAP and the BMF to train scores of builders’ merchant apprentices each year to help address the skills gap in the construction sector.

Dean Hayward, NMBS head of sales and marketing, says:

“Ollie’s journey exemplifies how practical experience can be a catalyst for personal and professional growth, and how this approach can greatly benefit the construction sector. His decision to opt for an apprenticeship over traditional higher education is a pathway that we are encouraging other young people to consider. It comes with no student debt and offers a solid and fulfilling career.”

Ollie’s journey from struggling student to a rising star in the construction industry is evidence of the transformative power of determination and practical learning. His story is one of personal growth and a shining example of how apprenticeships can shape the future of the construction sector.

The Leeds Apprenticeship Recruitment Fair returns to the first direct arena on Monday 5 February 2024, 1-7pm.

With over 100 major employers from a wide range of sectors, including construction, this is a chance to get information, advice, guidance and live vacancies.


This post is based on a press release issued on behalf of Mathewson & Rosemond Ltd


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