A £2.4M project to create a new base and huge hanger for the Great North Air Ambulance Service now involves the next generation of construction workers as part of a vital apprenticeship programme.

North-East building firm Tolent has been contracted to work on the full refurbishment of an existing office block which will become a new home for the charity in Stockton.

Tolent has a 30-year history of supporting young professionals in the region, with the firm now working with Stockton Riverside College to provide work placements for those interested in construction careers.

And the team on site were only too happy to welcome an extra pair of skilled hands in the form of 19-year-old Nathan Jones.

Soon to be finishing his T-Level qualification at Stockton Riverside College, Nathan is now confident that a career as a painter and decorator is the one for him, after recently completing a 45-day industry placement with the national contractor.

“This was my first time on a live construction site and it’s been a great experience,” said Nathan.

“You definitely appreciate more of how you fit into a wider team when working in this sort of environment, I’ve been able to see a whole office come together which has made me appreciate other trades and skills.”

Once qualified, Nathan hopes to find a job with dreams of one day owning his own business.

“It’s great to see that there’s still an appetite and ambition for careers in construction,” said Michael Welford, site manager at Tolent.

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Mr Welford’s journey started nearly two decades ago when he joined the firm as an apprentice in 2000. He completed a multi-trade qualification in bricklaying, joinery and painting and decorating at Redcar and Cleveland College before enrolling on an apprenticeship scheme in joinery with Tolent.

“Following on from my work experience in school, I always wanted to become an architect but the idea of a seven year study programme didn’t appeal to me at the time, I craved for something more practical where I could earn and learn at the same time,” added Mr Welford.

“By completing my apprenticeship, I gained valuable site experience which has been the foundation for me to continue my personal development and progressing a career into site management. I have always been dedicated to continually developing my skills and career and I am grateful to Tolent for its continued support and to all my colleagues who have shared their experience.

“I would encourage anyone to participate in an apprenticeship scheme and it’s great to see Tolent continue to give individuals the opportunity to enhance their experience.”