Paul Wilson wins Construction Apprentice of the Year Award

RE:GEN Apprentice Site Manager Paul Wilson wins big at the North East Apprenticeship Awards 2023

Paul won the Construction Apprentice of the Year category at the inaugural awards helf at St James Park on 13th July 2023. 

Paul’s journey into construction began when he was 30 years old, working as a bus driver in Newcastle, following jobs as a supervisor in a bakery and being a member of the Army after leaving school at 16.

Paul had reached a point in his life where he recognised he wasn’t happy at work, and this was having an impact on his home life and general wellbeing. Speaking with family and friends, he toyed with the idea of looking into a construction apprenticeship and knew someone who worked at local regeneration specialists RE:GEN Group.

Debating whether it was an off site or on site route he wanted to follow, Paul spent some time shadowing members of the RE:GEN commercial team, but quickly realised he was more suited to a hands on, practical role.

In July 2021 he applied for a pre-employment bootcamp position with RE:geon training.

The course was 6 weeks long, unpaid and required Paul to take a two-week holiday from his full time role, as well as fitting in work placements and visits around his work shifts.

With no construction experience, this course was a combination of classroom learning and practical experience, giving Paul an insight into the industry, covering introductions to the various trades and disciplines, importance of health and safety, construction law etc.

At the end of the course, Paul decided site management was the career choice for him, and put himself forward for an interview as an Apprentice Site Manger with RE:GEN Group.

However, the board at RE:GEN had identified other candidates who had more construction knowledge and experience than Paul and had reservations that Paul would be able to make this work financially, as taking on the apprenticeship meant taking an £13k pay cut. 

Whilst delivering the news that Paul hadn’t been successful on this occasion, Lee Francis, CEO at RE:GEN Group, expressed to Paul that they were so impressed by his commitment and enthusiasm, they had lined up three interviews for a mid-level position with other employers.

But Paul refused.

He knew he wanted to work for RE:GEN because of their workplace culture and had already begun proceedings to sell his house and move in with his partner and her family in order to make it work financially. Proving his commitment and determination once again, following another discussion with the RE:GEN Group board, it was agreed unanimously to offer Paul the role of Apprentice Site Manager.

Paul enrolled on a Level 4 HNC course with New College Durham in September 2021, attending one day a week and working four days with RE:GEN Group.

Having been out of full-time education for almost 15 years, Paul has been on his own journey to reintroduce himself back into classroom learning. From the basics of using a laptop again for the first time in years, getting to grips with Microsoft Excel and building up his essay writing skills from 900 words on his first assignment to 15,000 words on his last one! Paul’s course has given him insight into a range of topics from legal, regulations, health and safety and construction law to conveyancing, civils, foundations, scaffolding and concrete works.

At this point (June 2023) Paul is about to go for his End Point Assessment and is predicted to finish with an overall Merit.

Upon starting his course at college, Paul was also enrolled into the RE:GEN Academy.

Led by RE:GEN Group’s Academy Coach Scott Emmerson, the academy is set up to provide one-to-one support and mentoring throughout the apprenticeship and a tailored development programme was created for Paul.

The programme was designed to help build confidence in both the technical aspects of the role, as well as general transferable skills and working in line with business culture and values. It has been developed with a future focus and identifies what key roles and responsibilities Paul needs to work towards to reach Assistant Site Manager and senior Site Manager levels as part of a wider career progression journey.

During Paul’s apprenticeship, he has worked across a number of housing refurbishment sites and over the last 20 months, he has gained a deep understanding of the site management role.

He’s been purposefully placed on sites at different build stages in order to better understand the entire build process. This has also helped him to gain more detailed understandings of quality management and more specific skills of how to read drawings, how to issue permits etc.

And with this practical and technical experience, Paul is also gaining a better understanding and has begun crafting his own style when it comes to people-management. Paul has more recently led on inductions on site, chaired subcontractor meetings and has even attended and led on client meetings which the whole site team have been impressed with.

More importantly for RE:GEN, Paul is fully embodying the culture and values of the business, recognised by all who work with him that he is dynamic, caring, trusted and not afraid to challenge the norm.

Going above and beyond, Paul recently helped out a number of vulnerable residents who found themselves locked in their homes after snowfall blocked their access. Residents needed some essentials including bread, milk and parcels delivering which Paul was more than happy to do. Another example was arriving home one night, around 7pm, receiving a call from a disgruntled resident who had a leak in her house. He turned the car around and went back to solve the problem, much to the delight of the resident.

Paul has set his own sights on wanting to build a successful career with RE:GEN and has expressed interest in moving onto a degree-level qualification, which the business is currently helping him to do. He is also helping to promote the benefits of construction apprenticeships to others by taking part in a series of promotional campaigns including more than one TikTok video! 

Well done Paul!