Independent lead manufacture Midland Lead has been supplying thousands of pounds of raw materials and tools to colleges all for free as part of their drive to aid the training and development of future roofers. On account of their commitment to support construction colleges, Midland Lead has now added five new institutions to the portfolio of colleges they support across the country.
After building a successful rapport with Leeds College of Building (LCB), over the last six years, it was Marketing and Sales manager Lynn Street who saw the potential in that relationship to create more. With the help of Simon Dixon training manager at the NRFC, Lynn began to broaden the search to make more connections with construction colleges.
As of March, Midland Lead has now committed to supporting six colleges across the country. So far, these are Leeds College of Building, Newcastle College, South Devon College, Eastern Region Roof Training Group, Dudley College and the South Coast Roof Training Group.
Midland Lead’s commitment to these institutions means the company supplies colleges with up to a metric tonne of rolled lead, the value of which costs £2,200 at current market value. On top of that, the company provides lead working tools, tool belts and other ancillary products such as sealant and patination oil, all free of charge.
Many colleges can’t afford to provide their roofing students with these specialised tools and lead to practise working with, as Chris Messenger, tutor at LCB, remarks, ‘Without the support we receive from Midland Lead our apprentice students wouldn’t be able to work with lead itself.’ Colleges tend to use plastic alternative-lead products to keep costs down but as Chris points out this has it downsides. ‘It is only by using the actual material that apprentices can learn best practise when it comes to working with lead itself.’
What's more the sustainable nature of lead manufacture means that nothing goes to waste. At the end of the term, when the lead has been used, the scrap is collected by Midland Lead and recycled.
As the only UK lead manufacturer to offer machine cast, rolled and sandcast lead, Midland Lead is also able to provide experiences above and beyond their provision of materials. Since their relationship with Leeds College of Building started six years ago the family-run company has been welcoming student groups to the site for factory tours.
Visiting the factory is a fantastic experience for the students. It is an excellent opportunity to appreciate the various processes behind lead manufacture before it reaches building sites in its final form. After a recent visit to the processing plant, the LCB apprentices agreed that seeing the process of manufacture encouraged greater respect for the product. ‘If you know the how and why behind the manufacture and treatment of lead, then you can give the product the quality of care it needs.’ Says Matt Ford, a first year student at Leeds.
Matt’s tutor Chris Messenger agrees, believing that this extra insight into the industry gives his students a real appreciation for the material, ‘Midland Lead takes you on a first class journey of the lead manufacturing process from plant to site. It makes students really get to grips with using such a long-lasting material.’
During the visit Midland Lead’s staff gave students talks on health and safety when working with lead sheet, as well as top tips on treating and installing lead products. They explained which ancillary products are used within the roofing industry alongside lead to get the most of their material. For example, fixing clips, patination oil and flexible lead slates. All this insider information will then help to ensure best practice is kept when it comes to handling lead.
Lynn Street, who has been behind the initiative since the start of this year, believes backing the colleges is a worthy investment. She says, ‘By supporting colleges we’re highlighting the durable and dependable nature of lead to the next generation of roofing contractors. With more and more lead replacement products entering the market it’s vital that students are fully informed about lead’s unique properties, and the fact that it really can’t be replicated. Introducing authentic lead products early on in an apprentice’s career expands their skill set and secures a future for traditional lead work.
‘As a national supplier of lead it is vital that companies like Midland Lead are doing their bit to bridge the skills gap and help the construction industry as a whole. Making these links between companies and institutions helps to do just that. As the future buyers of construction materials, forming relationships with the prospective workforce, and making them aware of lead as a sustainable and durable product, is so worthwhile for the future of our trade.’