Training the Next Generation of Estimators

Published on 29th September 2021
Avonside Group Trainee Estimators Willliam Brash and Matthew Witherington

Meet Matthew Witherington and William Brash (or Matt and Will as they prefer to be called) – our up-and-coming Trainee Estimators. Matt and Will are currently in their 13th week of a 24-month internal training course, which is taking a new approach to the way Avonside Group train new recruits.

A New Group Approach to Training

Under proud mentor Andrew Spruce’s guidance, Matt and Will will benefit from a more integrated approach to their learning. Whereas previously the Group had either recruited experienced Estimators or provided Estimator training alone, Matt and Will’s experience will be enriched with training spent with other departments, covering all aspects of the business.

For example, the first 6 months of the internal course they are undertaking will comprise of Estimator training but has also included working towards and gaining Manual Handling, Working at Heights and Site Health and Safety Awareness (which they have both now obtained training certificates in) and attending a Marley Product Knowledge course at Marley’s training centre in Burton on Trent.

Once they reach the 7-month milestone of their training programme, both trainees will move on to develop their skills and knowledge in other areas of the business. While they have already enjoyed on-site training with a member of the Operations Team at Avonside Roofing Wigan, Branch Director Ian Clarke, Matt and Will can expect to receive basic commercial and finance training as well as further on-site learning.

The result?

Andy Spruce wholeheartedly believes the new integrated approach to training will give them a more well-rounded view of the whole business. “I think it’s important for them to see all aspects and areas of the business, that way they’re not just seeing part of the story, they’re observing how it all fits together,” Andy shared.

He explained that in Estimating, pricing work up and producing quotations can get repetitive and Estimators do not often see the fruits of their labour. Fortunately, this new approach ensures they will get to see a roof on a project or scheme they helped quote for, providing them with more fuel and motivation as well as a wider understanding. Andy reckons the Group will adopt the integrated more well-rounded approach to training when it comes to teaching and upskilling employees in other areas of the business as well as Estimating.

Different Perspectives

Supplementing their training experience with different perspectives by giving them opportunities to learn from various staff members is also essential, according to Andy. The trainees are lucky to have Andy’s extensive experience of four decades in Estimating, Sales, Contracts Management, on-site work, and commercial work to draw upon, but they’ve also been supported in their Health and Safety training by our Group SHEQ Manager Sarah Burke’s [pictured below with the trainees and Andy] team. While they visited three different live projects with Ian Clarke, they will most likely train under another Branch Manager on different sites too.

Sarah Burke with Matthew Witherington and William Brash Trainee Estimators and Andrew Spruce

“Although Branch Managers’ work is essentially the same, they can approach it in different ways, so it’s good for the lads to see that. Plus, one branch might be working with certain materials and products delivering a certain service like Roof Tiling, where another branch might be doing slating or leadwork, so they get to learn different skills,” revealed Andy.

Successful Results

When Will came to Avonside Group he had three years’ roofing experience. On the other hand, Matt and only basic training before. The first three months of their training programme have seen Matt gain his provisional CSCS card which grants him access to construction sites for six months (Will already had his green labourer card).

Matt and Will have excelled so much so that, by working together, they have advanced to a stage that has produced almost £3.5 million pounds worth of new build quotations for Leeds, Warrington, Reading, Milton Keynes, and Ringmer. In fact, Andy is delighted to report that they have jointly secured a complicated project worth £100k for Castle Green Developments in Kenley, Croydon, South London!

These fantastic results have been accomplished thanks to both trainees following an Estimating Training Plan specifically tailored to suit their requirements. They have learned how to:

  • complete drawing take-offs,
  • produce bills of quantity,
  • fully price both material and labour using our SwiftEst Estimating software an
  • return customer quotations to a very satisfactory standard.

Looking Ahead

Andrew Spruce Estimating Manager at Avonside GroupThe Estimating Training Plan will continue to include elements not yet covered, some commercial, technical, and advanced electronic in-house takeoff software, but all will be covered organically by continuing to price more and more enquiries, which will increase product knowledge, whilst being productive at the same time.

Ultimately this Estimating Training Plan will form part of the Level 3 NVQ in Construction Contracting Operations that both Will and Matt are undertaking with external training provider Pearson plc, under the examination body Edexcel, alongside the internal training programme.

The goal is for both trainees to become Estimators for Avonside Group once their training is complete, but Andy [pictured] acknowledges they will have the skills to work anywhere within Avonside Group when their training is finished. “The industry is crying out for fully qualified Estimators at the moment but as an Estimator, you do get a good foundation to later progress onto the Operations side and Contract Management. Well, actually they could diversify into working in Accounts, Health and Safety, Finance too. Both have a bright future ahead of them, regardless of the path they choose.”

Indeed, Sarah highlighted how apprenticeships and careers are available in a variety of areas within the construction umbrella, including traineeships in Finance Administration, Estimating, Management, IT, and HR when she delivered a presentation at the Apprenticeships: Be Inspired afternoon panel hosted by Opportunity Sheffield back in June.

Both trainees will appreciate Andy’s dedication and commitment to them as they learn from the best. Andy concludes that their training is going really smoothly so far declaring: “We’ve really found two gems here. It’s been a real pleasure teaching Will and Matt; they get on like two brothers [despite Will being a Liverpool FC fan and Matt supporting Everton!] Both are great and have made a fantastic start.”