Partnering Up

Date: 03 October 2018

Find out how our Thistle Partnership programme is helping bring through the next generation of talented plasterers.

At British Gypsum we are dedicated to helping raise standards across the plastering industry. Whether that’s through delivering industry-leading training to installers via our national network of Technical Academies or helping in the development of new industry apprenticeship standards, it’s something that we work hard to achieve. We recently caught up with Training Partnerships Manager, Dave Hall, to learn more about our Thistle Partnership, which is helping bring through a new generation of talented plasterers.

Following 30 years of supporting colleges, the Thistle Partnership programme was officially established in 2014 to help us develop closer relationships with and support further education colleges across the UK. Since then it has gone from strength-to-strength and now supports in excess of 3,500 students across 60 colleges in the UK. Now, four years since the programme’s launch the impact it has had on the quality of plastering training in colleges across the country is clear. Both students and tutors have benefitted from the initiative and the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) events held in our Technical Academies have been particularly effective. 

Student plasterers in training center

In previous years, one of the biggest issues facing plastering students and apprentices was a lack of access to the latest products and resources. Plaster products and the associated accessories required can be expensive and with colleges constantly under threat from budget cuts there was a tendency to strip back the material available for students to use. Unfortunately, this had negative consequences for the broader industry as by the time many of these students arrived on-site the products they had become accustomed to were outdated and retraining was often required. 

We wanted to support the industry by providing students and apprentices with better access to the latest products, resources and industry expertise. Developing the Thistle Partnership programme has helped us to do just that. We now donate around 40,800 bags of plaster per year, which is enough to plaster 4,540 homes and we supply our partner colleges across the UK with enough plasterboard to fit the length of 215 football pitches.

Another reason why we started the Thistle Partnership Programme was to help the industry overcome its current skills shortage. With the Thistle Partnership we’re pledging more than just words to help fix things. Our staff dedicate more than 300 work hours a year relaying their wealth of expertise to students and helping them become better at what they do.

The Thistle Partnership Learning Hub is an extension of this effort. The online platform offers plastering students and lecturers a place to learn and share. Located on the British Gypsum website, the Learning Hub provides instant access to learning materials and information on new products and systems. It represents a level of support that previously didn’t exist and is giving students and apprentices the best possible opportunity to make a strong start to their careers in plastering and drylining. 

Thistle Partnership learning hub for student plasterers

Many of the lessons that we’ve learned whilst developing the Thistle Partnership programme have influenced our work in collaborating with the Federation of Master Builders’ (FMB) to shape the new higher quality plasterer apprenticeship programme as part of the Government’s new Trailblazer Apprenticeships initiative. The course has been engineered to produce plasterers that are skilled in the areas where employers need them to be. Akin to the Thistle Partnership, the change has the potential to drive up standards across the industry and help the sector meet the Government’s apprenticeship targets.

Find out more about our Thistle Partnership.

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