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Working in partnership to deliver recruitment and skills solutions

Like much of the construction industry, the Finishes and Interiors sector (FIS) is experiencing a widening skills and labour gap – leading to an increasing number of vacancies going unfilled.

To recruit the workers it needs – especially young people and those from diverse backgrounds – the industry needs to embrace alternative ways to attract employees, as noted in our Rethinking Recruitment research.

Additionally, disadvantaged young people need opportunities to allow them to reach their full potential. This includes support with education and training, guiding them through the start of their careers and celebrating their achievements.

This is where the YouthBuild project comes in.


Based in Thamesmead, YouthBuild is a not-for-profit organisation set up to champion the cause of underprivileged young people by working with employers and organisations in the construction industry.

They deliver holistic construction skills-based courses for those aged between 18 – 29 who are not in education or employment, equipping young people with the skills and mindsets to succeed in the workplace.

YouthBuild can’t achieve this alone, however.

Funded by CITB, FIS operate the BuildBack programme, which develops the next generation of dryliners. It provides introductory training followed by a work placement with a local employer. This evolves into sustained work and FIS can support future training, including vocational qualifications and apprenticeships – at no cost to the employer.

FIS are working in partnership with YouthBuild to help their members recruit from this pool of new talent. Julius Debrah is one of many successful examples of this initiative.

Julius’s story

Julius, along with some of his family, moved to the UK from Ghana when he was 14 years old. They already had firm roots in the UK – he moved here to join the rest of his family who had already settled in well and were working for the NHS. Julius spoke very little English but was well supported by his school, who helped him settle in.

Julius attended Bexley Business Academy and decided to stay on for 6th form. However, when he came to leave school, as with many other of his friends, he found it difficult to find the right career path. Despite support from family and friends, he was unable to get his foot in the door with the right employer.

When the pandemic hit, Julius had to sign up for Universal Credit; fortunately, his work coach at the local Job Centre Plus spotted an employability opportunity with YouthBuild UK. 

Building a new start

Julius enrolled and successfully graduated from the programme in July 2021 and received commendations for his positive work ethic and determination to succeed. MPG Contractors, an FIS member, were actively seeking to recruit new entrants.

YouthBuild arranged for Julius to visit the prestigious Berkley Homes/MPG project at Chelsea Creek and see for himself a live site in action.

MPG were extremely impressed with Julius and offered him a position as a trainee Dryliner as part of their Kickstart Scheme. Julius has now been with MPG for over 5 months and is already a valued member of their team.

“I am really happy with my placement and working in construction,” Julius said. “Construction is a great industry to gain new opportunities and experience, but most importantly, I can earn lots of money!

I would recommend working in construction to everyone – and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the YouthBuild project.

My favourite thing is waking up early and getting stuck in – I’m an early riser so I love getting involved in lots of different projects. I’m excited to see where construction will take me. I’m most proud of being able to earn enough money to help my mum pay her bills.

I would like to learn more about construction as a whole and see where it can take me. One day though I would like to become a site manager.”

I want to say a massive thank you to everyone involved in supporting me to achieve what I have. I am forever grateful to you all.”

Julius is a fantastic example of a young person flourishing when given the right tools to succeed. He looks forward to a long career in construction, and the industry benefits from a skilled, motivated worker. Win, win.

Alex Adams, HSEQ and Training manager at MPG, said:

“We were happy to hire Julius as the YouthBuild Build Back project had given him a good grounding, he understood how to use his tools from day one. Julius has progressed well and impressively gets to work early every day even if working on a new site. I am looking forward to seeing Julius progress further in the coming months and gaining his NVQ2 in Dry Lining with the next 12 months.”

Charles Richards, Head of Youth Development at YouthBuild, said:

“Julius was a very kind-hearted and ambitious young individual who enjoyed great successes on the YouthBuild Ventures Bootcamp programme. Julius demonstrated great passion for the construction industry as well as showing great leadership throughout his journey. His efforts whilst on programme led to a successful placement as a Dry Lining Trainee. We are extremely proud of Julius and wish him all the best for his future.”

Craig Hughes, Commissioning Manager at CITB, said:

“We are excited to be supporting the FIS BuildBack programme, which will provide new entrants with the skills and opportunities required to be successful in the sector, at such a crucial time. While we face a huge challenge in the coming years to fill skills gaps within construction, the programme will be extremely beneficial in connecting more employers with new recruits and enabling them to benefit from a more diverse pool of talent.

Julius is a fantastic example of the progress you can make. With great passion and a willingness to learn, you can really excel and achieve your goals. We look forward to welcoming more entrants like Julius and watching them flourish through the programme.”

Get involved

There is a widespread shortage of people coming into the Finishes and Interiors industry. The FIS Build Back programme is helping employers recruit new talent and deliver key community benefits.

For further information please contact catherinebullough@thefis.org