Developing apprentices is crucially important for the mastic asphalt sector. As one of the few construction activities still regarded as a ‘craft trade’, it’s important that we develop and train the next generation of mastic asphalt installers.

New City College Hackney, formerly Hackney Community College, is the national centre for mastic asphalt education and training, and relies upon support from the Mastic Asphalt Council (MAC) and its members. The mastic asphalt craft is taught by professional tutors and the traditional time-served apprenticeship is now incorporated into national vocational qualifications, leading to a Level 2 qualification.

MAC aims to protect the future of the industry by supporting apprentices through an intensive three year training programme that will ensure they can install mastic asphalt to the highest standards. The craft training programme is said to be one of the most demanding in the construction industry, and includes practical and theoretical training to use mastic asphalt across a wide range of applications.

Mastic-asphalt-apprenticeWe caught up with one of the current Level 2 Mastic Asphalt Apprentices Thomas Sutton who works for Brindley Asphalt Roofing. Thomas attends New City College on a block release basis, travelling from Birmingham and attending the college in blocks of 2-3 weeks at a time. When Thomas isn’t at college, he works on site and is due to complete his apprenticeship in June 2021.

Thomas actually entered the profession by chance, as he was working as a labourer for an agency and was working temporarily for Brindley Asphalt Roofing sweeping up and carrying buckets. He took a keen interest in the asphalt work and it wasn’t long before his strong work ethic was noticed. At this point, Brindley Asphalt Roofing employed Thomas directly as a labourer and he worked for the company for some 12 months, learning as much as he could before being offered an apprenticeship.

Thomas told us: “I ended up in the mastic asphalt sector by chance and it really opened my eyes to what the industry can offer. Every day is different and brings a new challenge; there are always new things to learn and opportunities to broaden my skills set. I enjoy the fact that I can immediately utilise the skills and knowledge I’ve learned at college and transfer them to the workplace.

“Apprenticeships are crucial to the sector. It’s important the industry has a skilled workforce as there is a skills gap within the industry. Apprenticeship training is the best way to provide the necessary skills to fill this gap.

“I would recommend the mastic asphalt sector as a great industry for any young person who enjoys a challenge, working outdoors and the opportunity to progress to a well-paid career. It has provided me with experience, whilst enabling me to work towards an industry recognised qualification. I also feel that by contributing to the productivity of the company, this has increased my future earning potential,” Thomas added.

Thomas told us that he enjoys both the theory and practical lessons at New City College, and he particularly benefits from practical lessons whereby he has the time to perfect his skills in the application of mastic asphalt.

Out on site, he particularly enjoys working on small balconies as he is able to utilise a wide skills set. Fortunately, he has the opportunity to work on a range of commercial projects for Brindley Asphalt Roofing where balcony work is commonplace. Thomas also told us that he finds the resources provided by the Mastic Asphalt Council to be a useful reference tool.
“My tutor introduced my year group to the Mastic Asphalt Council (MAC) website at the beginning of the course. The resources produced by MAC are particularly useful during our theory lessons at college. The technical guides are clearly laid out, and the news section is a great way to keep updated on MAC members completed contracts. MAC performs a key role in promoting the use of mastic asphalt and supporting research and testing of new materials and associated equipment, whilst supporting apprenticeship training and regulating quality and workmanship standards,” Thomas told us.

So what’s next for Thomas? He completes his apprenticeship later this year, but he won’t rest on his laurels. He plans to start a distance learning degree in Environmental Science whilst he works full time for Brindley Asphalt Roofing.

“Whilst I’ll always be on the tools, I hope that I can use the knowledge acquired from the Environmental Science degree to help promote mastic asphalt’s environmental policies in compliance with the Government’s 10-point plan. Whilst mastic asphalt has been around for centuries, it is moving with the times and the future looks very bright!” Thomas added.