Building bosses struggle to give money away

Northern building firms have education grants worth thousands of pounds going begging, but are struggling to find any takers. Members of the Northern Counties Builders Federation have funding available for schools and colleges and for individual students but are getting a poor take-up, despite their best efforts.

Graham Howard, boss of Cleveland building contractor RA Howard & Sons, took the offer to 12 education bodies in the region before he recently stepped down as president of the federation. Limit grant awards followed this drive, including £1,000 to Macmillan Academy in Middlesbrough to support academic understanding of construction and engineering. Through its design and technology department, the academy has been using the money to promote awareness of industrial teamwork, health and safety in the workplace, and environmental health of the planet. Staff and students were also able to work with a wider range of materials.

The federation also gave £500 and a trophy to girls of Sacred Heart Catholic High School in Newcastle – winner among 14 northeast schools of a contest to visualise, plan and build an urban development in miniature.

Support has previously been given to colleges and to university students requiring hard hats and high visibility jackets to pursue their studies.

Jeff Alexander, a director of Surgo Construction in Newcastle, who has succeeded Graham Howard as the federation president, says: “We’re prepared to consider awards on a rolling basis. However, even institutions that benefited before have not come back to us. Our secretary Douglas Kell also visited colleges and made contacts with education departments – still no response.”

Now the federation is considering three bursaries of £1,000 each to any interested universities. “Students whose work performance deserves such recognition would surely welcome a £1,000 windfall when they know one day they will have to settle fees of £27,000,” Mr Alexander said.