• The Apprentice – Ballymore style

    Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs congratulates the students on completing their training.


The Apprentice – Ballymore style

Local youngsters say learning on site pushes them hard but they wouldn’t want it any other way.

The Mayor of Tower Hamlets has praised Ballymore for the developer’s commitment to helping local youngsters on the road to skilled construction apprenticeships to fill the nation’s “skills gap”.

One of London’s four directly-elected mayors, John Biggs, for whom employment and skills has always been a priority, walked the short distance from his town hall office to nearby London City Island to meet the students who have won places on Ballymore’s unique Pre-Apprenticeship Training Course, a piloted new partnership with the borough’s WorkPath initiative.

The Executive Mayor said: “This project is more meat on the bone of boosting local labour by putting that aspiration into reality. It’s about a partnership and we are pleased to be working with Ballymore. Hopefully this will provide opportunities for more young people to get careers in the construction industry – and we need those skills”.

Ballymore handpicked the twelve candidates on the two-week course from students at New City College in Poplar. James Burke, Ballymore’s Labour Coordination Manager said:

“Everything is done on site and they all have to be here at 7.30am to instil the work ethic. We have guest lectures, tours of our sites, and teach them as much as we can about everything from working at heights, being on scissor lifts and mobile towers, first aid, asbestos awareness, the lot. Then we put them in front of our contractors to see if they will take them on. But this cohort of candidates is some of the best ones we have worked with”.

Two of the 12 have already won apprenticeship jobs. They include the youngest candidate, Jack McGregor, son of a lorry driver who left school at 16 and grew up on the Isle of Dogs.

“This scheme stood out for me because it’s everything I ever wanted”, said Jack who wants to be a plumber. “And it gives one the upper hand above everyone else. Honestly, I don’t think I would have got with job without it because I showed them the Ballymore certificate in the second interview – and that was my trump card!”

Meanwhile Kai Baines, 20, from Wapping, who also wants to train as a plumber, reckoned that “the course pushed us to the front. My ambition is get fully qualified and then travel with my qualification before setting up my own business with my friend who’s already a qualified electrician”.

Laura Corr, development manager at London City Island, explained the background to Ballymore’s “culture of encouraging apprenticeships”.

“I think it starts from Ballymore’s chairman and CEO, Sean Mulryan. He has always been the inspiration for the idea throughout the organisation. Sean was a stonemason by trade in the family business in Rosscommon. But I doubt whether he ever did a formal apprenticeship - not in those days in Ireland. He probably learned from his father and brother”.

Steve Tennant, project director for LCI, Embassy Gardens and Wardian, added: “ By working with the local community on schemes such as this, we are helping to provide more accessible routes into the workplace, and ultimately bridge the ever-increasing skills gap we are seeing in the UK”.

Christine Lynch, Tower Hamlets Employment Deliver Manager, who worked in close partnership with Ballymore over the pilot scheme, said the candidates were selected as much for their “attitude”.

“You can teach people skills, but you can’t teach attitude. That was always key”.

All 12 candidates will qualify and will receive their Ballymore certificates as a special awards ceremony on Aug 29 when friends and family will be invited to the Marketing Suite at London City Island.


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