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Carillion, COVID-19 and site carpentry: an apprentice's progress

Neither COVID-19 lockdowns nor the collapse of Carillion have stopped Level 3 site carpentry apprentice Cezary Poniatowski from succeeding in his construction career. 

The 20-year-old from Bristol is currently enjoying working for Barratt Homes four days a week on local new build housing developments, while attending to his studies with the City of Bristol College on Fridays. 

Construction has proved a natural progression for him, after he came to live in the UK from Poland aged six. 

He said: “My mum keeps telling stories that as a child I would go into a shed my grandfather had in Poland with a lot of timber and tools in it, and I’d play with them.  

“I’ve always loved to do stuff working with my hands, I’ve always been a hands-on person, and I saw the offer of an apprenticeship for Level 1 carpentry and joinery with Carillion.” 

However, when industry giant Carillion stopped trading just over three years ago it threw into doubt the futures of 1,400 apprentices, including Cezary.  

At the time CITB contacted more than 40,000 employers encouraging them to take on the Carillion apprentices, with a £1.5m cash incentive programme, eventually helping over 1,000 back into employment. 

Cezary said: “As soon as I’d finished my Level 1 Carillion went bankrupt, and they closed down everything.  

“I didn’t know what was going to happen to me, really, for about a month and a bit, leading up to the closure. CITB got in touch along with Barratt Homes and they offered me a position as an apprentice.”  

Two years on into his new apprenticeship the pandemic struck, and while construction sites were only briefly locked down before reopening with safety measures, up until recently colleges had been closed along with other educational facilities. Like apprentices and college students across the country, Cezary had to adapt to continuing his studies remotely. 

Known to his supervisors for a highly conscientious and hard-working approach, Cezary also makes time to support other apprentices on site.   

He said: “Sometimes I go to help them out, like when we do a task together if they’re struggling I’ll give them some pointers.”  

Cezary would certainly recommend applying for an apprenticeship to other young people.

He said: “I’ve had a lot fun, I’ve learned a lot, and I think it’s a really good experience.” 

Find out more about construction apprenticeships on CITB’s Go Construct website