MPs praise for apprenticeships at the heart of hospital development

Picture Mandy Jones

One of the UK’s major civil engineering companies has opened its new purpose-built training centre as part of one of North Wales’s most ambitious construction and restoration projects.

Jones Bros now train their apprentices at the new facility on the site of the former North Wales Hospital in Denbigh where the company plan to carry out a major enabling development which will see them build 300 new homes over ten years.

Former Welsh Secretary David Jones, MP for Clwyd West, and his Conservative colleague and Vale of Clwyd MP Dr James Davies paid a visit to the new centre to meet developers Jones Bros and their latest cohort of apprentices.

The Ruthin-based civil engineering and construction company have posted a planning application for a £75 million development which will restore the central section of the historic former hospital, a Grade Two Star listed building.

Meanwhile their brand new, purpose-built new training centre is up and running on the Hospital site and with lockdown restrictions eased and social distancing measures in place new apprentices have already started courses in plant operation, plant maintenance and general construction.

The new site is in the constituency of Dr James Davies, who said: “The North Wales Hospital site is very important to the town of Denbigh. It was completed in 1848 and came into being as part of a reform movement for the care of the mentally ill.

“As a Grade Two Star listed building, it’s vital that it should be restored and all credit to Jones Bros and Denbighshire County Council for recognising this opportunity to return it to useful life.

“This is a very exciting project that will provide valuable jobs and training here in Denbigh for the next ten years and at the same time provide Denbighshire with much-needed high quality housing.

“I expect the development to provide huge public benefit to Denbigh, the Vale of Clwyd and the whole of North Wales.”

Jones Bros’ Ruthin headquarters are in neighbouring Clwyd West constituency and its MP David Jones added: “This is a very exciting project that could in terms of Clwyd West provide a great deal of employment to young people who want to enter the construction and civil engineering industries.

“The Prime Minister has said the name of the game is build, build, build and that’s exactly what Jones Bros are doing.

“It’s a great opportunity for these young people and they definitely get that. This is an industry to be in at the moment and they’re going to be at the forefront of it.

“They’re very fortunate because the consequences of Covid-19 are going to be severe and it is good to see these young people from across North Wales in apprenticeships for careers that will serve them well in the future.

“It’s great to see a company like Jones Bros investing in the future of this country by employing promising young people from a very wide area of North Wales and it was also impressive that Jones Bros take on apprentices from all over the UK including Scotland.”

Jones Bros, who held a successful consultation into their plans for the Hospital earlier this year, have submitted an outline planning application to Denbighshire County Council to redevelop the site by building 300 new homes as well as facilities for local businesses, shops and leisure activities.

This will include the restoration and conversion of the magnificent central section of the Grade Two Star-listed former psychiatric hospital as part of a 10 year project which will provide a £75 million boost to the local economy.

Jones Bros have already sited their new purpose-built training centre there and have an impressive record of delivering over 230 apprenticeships in the last ten years and at any one time will have over 60 on their books with a 91 per cent framework completion rate.

Among the new cohort of apprentice plant operators is local boy Andrew Thomas, 21, from Denbigh, who said: “My uncle works for Jones Bros and they’re a highly regarded company and this is such a good opportunity and I’d eventually like to get into the civil engineering side.

“It’s great to be part of this project which will really give something back to the local community because it’s such a waste of a great building and it’s so important to Denbigh.”

Carwyn Vaughan Evans, 19, from Nefyn, said: “My family work with machines and I wanted to carry on in that field as a plant operator but I wanted to upgrade myself as well.

“That’s why I applied to Jones Bros because they’re a company which offers so many opportunities and you can build a career with them.”

Bobbi Roberts, 24, from Llanddulas, Colwyn Bay, said: “Jones Bros just offer such good opportunities for training and can really kick-start a career for life.”

Tomos Evans, 20, from Deiniolen, said: “I was delighted to be accepted by Jones Bros. I’ve seen what they’re doing at Caernarfon bypass. They’re a great company.”

Dion Wyn Jones, 18, from Frongoch, near Bala, said: “I’ve lived on a farm all my life and always been around machinery so this is something I really wanted to do.

“It’s a great opportunity for me and one that could take me all over the UK.”

Will Davies, 21, from Bagillt, said: “I was with a groundworks company before and they treated you as a number but it’s different here with Jones Bros, they’re very considerate of you and it’s a great opportunity of a career for life.”

Charlie Jones, 20, from Ellesmere Port, said: “My stepfather works for Jones Bros and he told me they were a great company to work for so when this opportunity came up I had to go for it and I was delighted to get this chance.”

Jack Morgan, 20, from Gwersyllt, near Wrexham, said: “I had been in a dead-end job but this offers real career opportunities.

“I would like to work my way up and achieve as much as possible to better myself and this is definitely a chance to do that.”

Jones Bros employ over 500 staff with only 30 per cent of them currently working in Wales and they have a turnover of £80 million a year on an impressive list of civil engineering, infrastructure and development projects.

They work throughout the UK, from the Scottish Highlands to the Essex coast, building major multi-million pound infrastructure projects like the Caernarfon bypass and sea defence projects as well as 20 per cent of the country’s onshore windfarms.

Jones Bros Chairman Huw Jones said: “Apprenticeships are very important to us, they are the lifeblood of our company and they are employed by us from day one, not just at the end of their course.

“We recruit from right across North Wales and also from elsewhere in the UK and in all 12 per cent of our workforce are apprentices and we haven’t furloughed any of them.

“This new training centre is evidence of our commitment to the site and to the business. Many of our senior managers began as apprentices with us and some of these young people here will be our future leaders in 15 years’ time.

“The North Wales Hospital project is also very important to us because we are based here in the Vale of Clwyd and this is important to us and we want to be part of what can be a landmark success for the area.”

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