As a businessman Bob Weston understands the importance of investing in people and helping them develop.
The founder of house builder Weston Homes recently gave his support to national campaign, the 5% Club, to encourage businesses to increase the number of apprentices and graduates they employ.
It is not something Bob has had to work hard to achieve.
He says: “We have been supporting the need for training, development and apprenticeships for many years now. Within Weston Homes we are already at 8.5 per cent.
“We just joined the scheme to give it our backing and really encourage other businesses to do the same.
“There is a real need for apprentices in the housing industry and we are committed to helping young people develop their skills.
“We are proud to invest in these young people who are the future for our industry and this is demonstrated in our track record.”
Bob grew up in Great Bentley and studied electronics at the old Technical College in Sheepen Road, Colchester, now Colchester Institute.
He ran his first business in manufacturing amplifiers and disco equipment in the town and moved into construction later.
He worked for TJ Evers in Tiptree, where he cut his construction teeth working as a carpenter on developments in the Dutch Quarter and the Mercury Theatre.
He started his own construction company nearly 28 years ago and Weston Group now employs 244 people. It sponsors the Colchester United Football Club stadium, built a business centre at Stansted, and in Hawkins Road, Colchester, and has built numerous housing developments.
The company’s management trainee scheme has been running since 2002 and it launched its Careerstart Scheme in 2005.
Bob says: “I find taking people early on and helping them develop academically and professionally makes a difference to the business.”
Weston Group was recently reaccredited with an Investors in People award. Twenty per cent of its staff are currently in sponsored day release courses, undertaking NVQs or attending management training.
The 5% Club
The club is calling on all public and private companies to aim for five per cent of its UK workforce to be young people on structured training schemes over the next five years.
The scheme is backed by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
Statistics show 350,000 graduates come on to the jobs market every year.
A quarter of engineering graduates do not go into an engineering or technical career, while three in five firms are struggling to recruit workers with advanced technical skills.