With National Apprenticeship Week in full swing, West Ham United duo James Tomkins and George McCartney visited the Stadium at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park to pay a personal thanks to the apprentices helping to convert their future home.
West Ham United, the London Legacy Development Corporation and Newham Council continue to work closely on ensuring there is an enduring Olympic legacy for east London and are delighted that hard-working, local youngsters are benefitting from the arena's conversion into a UEFA Category 4 Football Stadium.
The first two of many Imtech apprentices began work in January 2014 and are due to see the high-profile project through to its completion, when the Hammers take up occupancy in summer 2016.
In line with Imtech's extensive engineering expertise, 18-year-old George Skuce and 20-year-old Mohamed Mohamed will concentrate on wiring and pipework, latterly setting their sights on field-of-play lighting and scoring systems.
For the time being, however, it is all systems go on a state-of-the-art home dressing room, with the apprentices clearing the way for the new and elaborate fit-out.
The Hammers' matchday facility will rival, if not exceed that of any other Premier League club. The spacious main dressing room area is to be configured in a horseshoe shape, with players able to use massage and activation equipment rooms without leaving the changing room. The squad will also have access to the Stadium's indoor running track to enhance their pre-match activity. Hot and cold plunge recovery pools, an in-house medical room and a designated analysis space are all to feature, plans befitting a world-class football venue.
Tomkins and McCartney present the apprentices with Hammers shirts
Skuce has an added incentive to ensure his work of the highest standard as, like many east Londoners, he is a lifelong Hammers fan. The teenager, who hails from Canning Town, studied electrical engineering at college and is in little doubt that his decision to undertake an apprenticeship was the right one.
"The West Ham link was everything to me, knowing that I was coming to a company that was transforming the Stadium for my home Club," he confirmed. "I've been brought up with West Ham, supporting them from day one, so to be here with an electrical company as well, which is what I'd always wanted to do, is pretty amazing.
"University just wasn't for me. It didn't appeal and as an apprentice I wanted to be working while earning, so it made perfect sense really.
"I'll be over here for the majority of games and I'll be able to say, I put that up and I've walked the players round the dressing room. It's definitely something that I'll look back on with pride over the coming years."
To date, upward of 60 apprentices have played a part in the creation of London's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, 16 of whom have already been supported into permanent employment both on and off the Park. At their peak, 95 per cent of apprentices were from the local area, such is the desire to support those in the Stadium's immediate surroundings.
West Ham United Vice-Chairman Karren Brady said: "We always promised that West Ham United's move to the Stadium would create hundreds of jobs for local people and the fact that the Stadium's stunning conversion is already transforming young lives is something that we are very proud of. As a Club, we're committed to making the Stadium accessible to all and youth employment is an integral part of that.
"It is no surprise that many of those working on the Stadium conversion are West Ham United fans as this is very much our community. I am personally delighted that fans like George are working on the project as they will be able to see first-hand the time, effort and meticulous detail that the Club with our partners put into planning for the conversion to make sure West Ham fans have an unrivalled matchday experience from the very moment we kick-off our first game there in 2016."
Dennis Hone, Chief Executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation, said: "So many successful careers have already been created as a result of the apprenticeship programme at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. I am thrilled to see these young people begin on that same road with their important work transforming the Stadium.
"With the opening of the Park on 5 April getting ever nearer, there are still plenty of opportunities for local young people to get involved in apprenticeships at the Park. I hope George and Mohamed enjoy their time working on such an iconic legacy of the Games and wish them every success with their future careers."
Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, said: "We are delighted that George and Mohamed are doing such a great job. Newham is committed to ensuring a lasting legacy for the Stadium that will enable us to support residents into jobs in such an inspirational place. Newham Council's employment service Workplace was actively involved with the recruitment of Newham candidates for these roles and continues to work with employers to find opportunities for young people to earn money while training with experienced staff and gain nationally recognised qualifications relevant to their jobs. I urge more employers to consider how hiring an apprentice could benefit their business."
Senior Imtech project manager Paul Leighton, who has been working on the Stadium transformation since August 2013, reiterated Imtech's commitment to the apprenticeship philosophy, having begun his own career in much the same way.
"The apprenticeship scheme is really important to us," Mr Leighton explained. "Both our Managing Director and I began our careers as apprentices, so we put a lot of stock in our apprenticeship scheme and across the UK Imtech take on at least 30 a year. A large proportion of our management teams are former apprentices and it has stood us in really good stead.
"The feedback on George and Mohamed so far is really good from the guys on site, they're a doing a great job. We undertake a lot of projects in and around London, so as long as they meet our standards their future careers with us are looking good at the end of their training. Investing in apprenticeships works out really well for everybody, we believe in the apprenticeship programme and the benefit it brings to the individuals and Imtech."
Nicholas Pollard, Balfour Beatty Construction Services UK Chief Executive Officer, said: "I know that the future of our industry depends on finding and investing in the next generation of engineers, project managers and skilled trades. We are committed to ensuring that five percent of our workforce is apprentices, graduates or sponsored students within five years so that we can maintain the highest quality workforce right here in the UK."