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Apprentice of the year
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Apprentices: A New Generation of Craftspeople

Bagnalls | 6 March

The Painting and Decorating Association is the trade body responsible for protecting and supporting all sizes of painting and decorating businesses, from sole traders through to multinationals. It was founded under the National Federation of Master Painters and Decorators in 1894 before adopting its current name in 2002. As the foremost voice in the industry, the PDA is heavily invested in promoting apprenticeships and helping create a new generation of craftspeople.

The Chief Executive of the organisation is Neil Ogilvie, who started his own career as an apprentice painter at 16 years of age back in 1977. Neil was uninterested in desk roles, and instead wanted to do work that felt like he’d made a tangible difference. Painting and decorating allowed him to arrive in a building, complete a project and then be able to look over his work and be proud at the results he’d achieved.

Neil worked ‘on the tools’ as head of his family business for many years, which he loved, before he was asked to step into the Acting Chief Executive role at the PDA back in 2009. He became full-time Chief Executive in September 2011. Speaking to Bagnalls, Neil was keen to explain that apprenticeships are far more than just an option for those uninterested in academic routes: “Apprenticeships sometimes unfortunately attract negative opinions such as ‘anyone can paint’ – but the industry creates quality craftspeople, not just painters. Apprenticeships help you build skills that will be with you for life, allowing you to have a trade you can take as far as you want. With an apprenticeship in painting and decorating, you will become a quality craftsperson who has a skill that will be with you until your dying day.”

“You can work in specialist trades such as graining and gilding and special effect work. Some of the apprentices employed by our members have gone on to travel all over the world. The craft will always be with you, and you can earn a great living from it without the debt associated with university.”

On the satisfaction apprentices can gain from the job, Neil was emphatic: “We are the finishing trade. We put the touches on a building people notice when they enter. When you visit a building, you don’t notice the plastering or electrical work. You notice the coverings and paint scheme. We transform a building from a shell to a living space. I may be in an office function now, but I loved my time on the tools. I know I can always go back to it if need be, it’s a skill for life.”

The PDA recognises apprenticeships through yearly apprentice competitions, where winners can look forward to a glamorous ceremony in London. “Our celebration is held every year at the Livery Hall in the Plaisterer’s Hall in London. It’s about showing apprentices that the career is more than just being a ‘painter’. It’s a celebration of the trade and the art, craft and passion that goes into it.”

“We have a need, now more than ever, to have a new generation of young apprentices and decorators. Technology and products are changing, so new apprentices will grow up with modern products and skills. We now have a huge market in which painters can take the UK forward and ensure all our fantastic buildings are taken care of by experienced, modern painters. Once you have the skill, it can take you to the highest ladder of where you need to go in your career.”

Neil himself is a fantastic example of how high the ‘ceiling’ is for apprentices. He was supportive of long-standing PDA members Bagnalls, who commit heavily to apprenticeships with a bespoke academy. “The PDA supports and encourages contractors of all sizes to take on board apprentices and take them to the highest level. Bagnalls have always given their apprentices fantastic support – which is why we often see them entered into our apprentice competitions. Apprentices are the future, and all painting and decorating contractors must recognise that.”



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