Government see apprenticeships..! Part 1

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To explain this article I feel I must explain, those of you that actually read my little blog, (Thank you mum!) will know I’m never politically motivated, although below is an exchange of emails from a group who did catch the other side of me a little in 2016 as in my humble opinion they had missed the point completely. Yes its taken me till now to put part one of this out here due to my various sabbaticals.

I may be totally wrong and am happy to be corrected if i am but I feel their approach to an apprenticeship shortage was not going to be helped by this idea. However I am pleased to also report locally at least schools are starting to arrange better careers days and involving all aspects of future employers to chat to the young adults allowing them to at least make sensible decisions about their future

The emails I received are in bold, my reply’s are in normal text …


Thank you for taking the time to read this and for supporting Apprenticeships. Endorsed by the Minister and in partnership with The National Apprenticeship Service and The Good Careers Guide (GCG), with whom we work closely, GCG are trialling a campaign in the first two months of 2016 to see if saying Thank You to schools and teachers increases their interest in putting more students forward for apprenticeships.

Full details are at:

They would be delighted if you felt able to ask your current apprentices, or those who have recently completed an apprenticeship with you, to join in. If you have any queries at all, please do get in touch with The Good Careers Guide at xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx or on xxx xxxx xxxx.

Dear ….

As a professional tradesman of a long standing family business and an occasional employer of apprentices I felt perhaps I needed to share some of my experiences. Over time we have had good apprentices from schools and these have either progressed in the trade or found after gaining a qualification in Painting and decorating they choose another career path.

Over the last eight years however I have noticed a decline. Any student with a modicum of intelligence is pushed to strive towards an academic profession whether they want one or not, some want to use their intelligence for practical skills but are discouraged.

Sadly this often leads to various manual trades in construction or the motor industry being left with a poor selection of students who don’t really want to conform to society for one reason or another, hence attempting to teach them anything is a fruitless task. Not saying they are all bad but we have struggled with a percentage of young adults lately that have been given no perception what real life working entails. I speak too many of my peers throughout the Country and also various other trades during the course of my year and they are all saying similar things.

It’s well reported in trade publications and now in the press that there is going to be a serious skill shortage in the coming years as many college training courses are inadequate and expectations of school leavers entering many trades are well below what is required to fill vacancies.

I’m sure some schools and colleges try their best, but many don’t as there is so much pressure put on them to achieve certain pass rates to meet government targets some students simply get left behind, or worse they attend the alternative education centers set up for disruptive pupils.

Somewhere we need a program potential school leavers do come into contact with real trade’s people to discuss what is expected in the real world, they need to be aware that early on the wages will not be great but it will only be through hard work, determination and perseverance that their skills will grow and be rewarded in any reputable business. In time with the correct guidance they may be able to start up their own business.

Sadly today our youth are exposed to the world of z list celebrity, who are thrust into the limelight for their fifteen minute of fame, hence often believe real life can be get rich quick without talent, skills or hard work. I am the one who usually bursts that bubble, government courses for trades people have become a farce dropping from 5 years to 3 years down in some cases to just 12 months, most trades can’t be correctly learned in under 3 years, that’s why many young people come out of school, into skills centres or technical colleges to learn a trade and set up businesses directly after, failing within their first 2 years of business due to lack of experience.

I realise this set out to be a positive post but after personal experiences and having spoken to many other decorators over the weekend at an event it appears somewhere we are failing both our youth and our future of having any properly skilled trade’s persons. If we are not going to become a nation of handy – men, we need to do something now to stop the decline. I am extremely passionate about my trade having had my skill passed down through the generations. If I can help please get back in touch.

Kind regards


Dear Sean,

Quite. That’s been the direction for decades and it’s not going to be easy to change things – though we noticed Nicky Morgan saying some sensible things recently. Change, if we can make it happen, will be slow and made of many small steps.

The way we are trying to change things is to go for the teachers. No-one much says thank you to teachers after they have left school, but they respond to a good thank-you as well as the rest of us. We think that if we can get your apprentices to say nice things to them, they will want to repeat the experience by sending more of their charges in your direction. In any event, we think that it is worth a try.

As an idea for getting the access you talk about, you might arrange a team to redecorate a classroom for free over the holidays or half term on the condition that every child in that class worked with you for at least a day? The community contributing to the school, Schools are thin on cash and likely to stay so – I’d be optimistic about finding a school that would agree. They could take part in the planning beforehand – lots of teaching opportunities there – and have a day working with and talking to a skilled craftsman. As long as you don’t sell it as a careers fair, or let them loose on the electrics!


Dear R

Thank you for your reply, and it’s quite true things have not changed for some many years. Sadly I haven’t been following what Nicky Morgan has been saying, I know she is the Secretary of State for education but that’s about it. Any changes have got to be made from the offset in schools the perception towards learning a trade has to change.

I actually work for a couple of teachers who taught me, and some of the latest generation, on the whole the children do appreciate them. Smaller children or pupils often thank teachers personally or give gifts as them progress through the school life. While older pupils may not realise at that moment in time, but do so in the future and in an area such as ours often have opportunities to meet their teachers as they go about normal life.

Personally again I feel the government needs to value teachers instead of constant pressure of inspections and rearranging how examinations are marked just to juggle figures. Then let the teachers get on with leading our children towards their futures, not what bureaucrats expect.

With regards to working with schools as you mention, this is all very well for the bigger firms, who have apprentices basically as cheap labour. I naturally have interacted with both the local schools and the local college trying to help out where I can, with various projects. Even despite arranging several trade shows for my local college and speaking to many possible apprentices during the course of the day it was very apparent they were not there due to a teacher guiding them, unfortunately many were just there as a last ditch attempt. Even some obviously didn’t want to be there.

So returning to teachers, they have to push many of the pupils to gain highest marks to benefit the school, trade or manual jobs are deemed as beneath an educated person, hence the shortage of skilled workers from pupils than might have decided to follow a manual career, but persuaded to reach higher.

I do not wish just to train the basics to the next generation, I’ll leave that to the substandard colleges and the contracting firms who gain cheap labour but don’t really progress skills. Being only a tiny family firm, we only have one apprentice at any given time and we endeavour to teach them all aspects. Sadly mainly because from school they haven’t been inspired that this may be a worthwhile profession we are always fighting a losing battle.

Your sentiments are a thoughtful gesture but think personally a little misguided as I know many of the apprentices we have tried over the last few years, didn’t appear to gain much out of school, had a poor rapport with the teachers and if I’m honest now regret not paying attention in school so they may have perhaps had better opportunities, at that young age looking at the bigger picture is difficult. One question I ask any apprentices I interview is where you see yourself in five years time. For a sixteen or even eighteen year old it’s a difficult one as many don’t think past next week, again due to how they are educated.

I hope you can tell this is something I am passionate about and trying to work with a major manufacturer to change perception of our trade in particular. As I mentioned your sentiments are valid just perhaps need to broaden your gaze, look at those who left school ten years ago that have made a successful career.

Kind regards



Basic decorating advice intro

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I’m going to do a basic series of common misconceptions and decorating advice posts to assist a home owner who may be attempting to under take painting and decorating themselves, hopefully it may assist them, or at the very least minimize the decorating faux-pas our trade has to correct on a daily basis from well meaning DIY’ers

In one respect its my way of putting a little back from the trade I have worked hard in for over thirty years, even I’m still learning new things every day. From the current increase in water-based products, to changes in fashion from wall paper borders to bright coloured feature walls, the ever growing list of new paints manufacturers invent to fill niche markets,  to the advances in dust free sanding systems there is generally something new happening

Another aspect is perhaps it might encourage an interest within the trade, sadly there will be a shortage of proper time served trades people in the future, not just in painting and decorating but in all trades and with our elderly population slowly increasing, they will need reputable trades people to undertake work in the future. Yes its a shock to the system actually coming to work for the first time after a school enviroment, but providing they are willing to learn, skills taught hands on will stay with them for the rest of their lives and possibly provide them with a rewarding way to earn a living in the future.

So look out for posts #askapainter hashtag or if there is anything decorating related I may be able to answer, feel free to ask a question below, I will try my best to answer within a couple of days.The video that accompanies this post is a bit of light heart fun, mainly jobs that are in progress so you can at least view the variety of work we do.



Wallpaper, Where do I paste?

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This week’s job was for a good regular customer. Straight forward enough, prepare a bedroom and ensuite. Emulsion ceiling and three walls. I used Dulux Quick Dry Eggshell for ensuite ceiling to offer added durability. Abraded the door casings, skirting and shutters applied Dulux Quick Dry Undercoat and Gloss as we are moving with the times.

Finally I was due to paper the feature wall. My customer had shown me the wallpaper she had bought. Even shown me the sample swatch she had initially been sent, which felt and looked a quality product, so I was anticipating having am enjoyable morning hanging it.

I set up my paste boards checked wallpaper labels, “as you do!”, then opened first roll and stretched it out across my paste board to get a proper look.

As usual I took a customary glance at the instructions on the rear of the label. More often than not these are all very similar.


  • Inspect rolls prior hanging – check
  • Mark a straight line on the wall – check
  • Use manufacturers recommend paste – check
  • Paste the wall and apply the paper – ch…….hang on a minute…..looked again at label…. so you’re telling me a wallpaper costing £80 a roll is a paste the wall one…I must admit it surprised me a little.


Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against paste the wall, wallpapers. I used quite a bit of Novamura in its day which was lightweight generally small patterned hence hung directly of the roll.


I also understand the reasoning behind them, especially with non woven papers pasting the wall reduces or even eliminates the chance of uneven stretching that sometimes occurs when you apply paste to it.
Noticed in last few years more manufacturers producing paste the wall versions.
This one was a respected name Cole & Son, the reason I was surprised was until I actually looked at the back of the label no mention of pasting the wall had cropped up.

I was however please with the end result as was my customer.



Extracurricular activities in decorating

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Recently I have been doing extracurricular activities from my day job and decorating at home. It’s surprising how these jobs help your home life run smoother.  During this project it made me think more about a potential customer’s process of actually employing a professional decorator.

This is naturally something I do consider but until now have never written about.  Obviously in most households I assume there will be a discussion between the partners involved about doing a bit of decorating.

I wonder at what point some people decide to involve a professional decorator.

Perhaps they value their free time and don’t want to spend it painting a chore many people dislike.

Or they simply do not feel confident to undertake the task at hand, knowing what tools and materials are required and how to carry out some jobs can be daunting if you have never needed to do it.

There is the occasional job a customer starts, but becomes overwhelmed by it and asks a decorator to step in and complete.

Of course there are those who would always know the value of employing a decorator for a culmination of the reasons above usually.

So once a potential customer has began the process of employing a professional decorator, the initial impression has been made when the prospective job was viewed to be estimated and the price has been accepted ….what happens next?

Some customers like a firm date to be arranged others are flexible, especially if it’s an exterior job as we can’t always guarantee the weather.

Usually on my jobs I have found predominately any exterior work is discussed with the husband or male partner of the house, while interiors are generally the lady. Naturally in both situations a good decorator should be able to recommend the best specification and be able to offer impartial advice towards colours and finishes.

This brings me back to my own little project, my wife is also involved within the home decor market for over twenty years she has designed and made curtains and soft furnishings for a local furnisher store. As she knows a thing or two about colour coordination it lead to some interesting discussions when she mentioned how she would like the rear hallway redecorated.

I was extremely sceptical at first towards her colour suggestions but once again I have to admit as I am sure in many cases “the wife is always right”.

Despite the rather bold accent colour she managed to break it up with the additional features of a black board and cork board, one wall painted white , even managed a Luxury textured painted panel with crystal sparkles  the inspirational quote was actually my input and idea but the curtain & blind where once again left to the wife to arrange



Latest product review

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Coral Paperwiz


Ok let’s be totally up front and honest here, this isn’t really a new tool. It’s a bold copy of our old friend the Wall-wiz.  Nothing wrong there I hear you say, if Wall-wiz has gone out of production fair play to Coral for reintroducing a replacement copy.

Short Description

These types of tools do have their uses admittedly, although I sometimes think they are not as versatile as the manufacturer would suggest. Perhaps it’s only because I am such a dinosaur I still like to use my papering brush when hanging the majority of wall coverings.

Using a cutting guide to knife wall papers probably started with the use of an artex caulking tool and things have evolved from there. The Coral Paperwiz and its predecessor the Wallwiz introduced these standalone tools which have been designed to replace at least three traditional ones.

I find it will only work as a replacement for my papering brush on certain smooth surfaced papers, hard wearing vinyl’s are quite good and recently the current trend of paste the wall papers seem to work ok if smoothed with the Paperwiz.

In my opinion it’s no use on textured wallpapers or those which go very soft when soaked as it can take the surface of delicate papers, where a soft papering brush can be used gently.

Not sure about its suitability as a seam roller, rubbing a hard piece of plastic over a seam on some papers would just shine the seam like many plastic seam rollers used to.

The Paperwiz’s final trick is it can be used as a cutting guide, yes despite  it being fractionally thicker than the original Wallwiz which in turn was thicker than most plastic caulkers, I like it, I like it a lot.

I always reach for the Paperwiz now when wallpapering, recently I hung some paste the wall paper and never used my papering brush once, just Paperwiz’ed for smoothing on and cutting guide.

Admittedly as a cutting guide you need to pay attention, push the Paperwiz into the desired position and get the blade of your knife resting right against the curve at a slight angle so you get a close cut, but once your there you can create straight consistent cuts every time.

As decorators it’s also fun that these come in a range of translucent colours, bringing a bit of fun into our tool boxes which I applaud.


Lightweight translucent design

Solid Construction

Tactile feel

Fun Colours


Trimming guide edge takes practice

One radius corner adequate.


Priced at under £5 from various outlets there is no reason why everyone who hangs wallpaper should have one of theses in their kit, even if you only use it for one of its multitude of abilities it would be a worthwhile addition. Easy to use, easy to keep clean and useful little product

Comfort   9/10

Cleaning 10/10

Application 7/10

Value for money 10/10


Victorian ceiling restoration

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As you will read in my posts the majority of our work is reasonably straight forward. Having said this it’s much more than just painting our goal is to provide a quality customer service from the start and leave a pleasurable end result with all our customers which has been our philosophy from the beginning.

A recent local project allowed us to use a fuller extent of our skills in restoration. I was invited by a new customer to offer advice, colour scheme and redecorate the lounge in their Victorian home.
Part of my remit was to repair an ornate ceiling. I have always assumed these ceilings to be an early Superglypta type of wallpaper, but after discussing it with a good friend and professional decorator Russ Pike from Nottingham’s prime decoration he suggested the correct term for this particular type was a Camiod ceiling, so it’s true you learn something every day.
I had assumed that most of the ceiling edges that appeared loose would simply stick back but after closer inspection I found the situation was more serious so as this was a special ceiling I devised a rescue mission. The ceiling is actually made up from 20 individual ceiling panels creating the raised ornate border, with a period paper in the centre.
Each pane of Camiod border was inspected, if it wasn’t soundly adhered to the ceiling I carefully cut around it and took it down. Once on the floor each piece had to be cleaned, numbered and a thin stabilising solution brushed on the back to seal and strengthen them.
My attention turned then to the original ceiling and the reason for poor adhesion in the first place was down to distemper or whitening the products very much used at the time the house was new.
So I needed to prepare and stabilise those surfaces also.
Once I was satisfied both surfaces were dry and solid I began the slow process of piecing the ceiling panels back together. Each piece had adhesive applied and was returned to its original position. The large corner panel took two of us to hold in situ and had to be held in place with a few screws as the adhesive set.
The ceiling paper strips that had come down needed double soaked with Solvite flake adhesive before they were pliable enough to rehang.
Once everything was returned it was left overnight to fully dry.
The next day we needed to dress the joints of the Camiod paper with powder filler.
Also we were preparing the walls and woodwork stripping the old wall coverings and abrading the woodwork.
The walls were being lined to paint apart from the chimney which was receiving a feature paper
After all the preparation was completed the colour scheme we advised was a classic simple one of Dulux pure brilliant white on the coving, Gardenia on the repaired ceiling and newly lined walls, Rosepetal on the frieze with Dulux Trade Brilliant White QD undercoat and gloss on the woodwork.

Finished of with feature wallpaper on the chimney I helped chose to complement the period of the property and give the final wow effect. Which I hope you will agree in this video was worth the effort.