In WCoBM’s next #BuildACareerWithoutLimits column for Builders’ Merchants News, we talk to BMF student and prize winner Ryan Edwards of Kellaway Building Supplies on his career in merchanting and thoughts on working in the industry. The column was published in the July/August issue.

Our campaign, ‘Build A Career Without Limits’, was set up to improve awareness and understanding of the builders’ merchant sector and the many career choices in our industry. There is an amazing breadth of roles in a builders’ merchant or with a supplier of building materials, including opportunities to start in a particular job and move into another. But a lot needs to be done in making our sector look exciting to inspire young people to join. The campaign targets apprentices; school, college and university leavers; those who already work in the sector and those thinking of a career change.


Recognising rising stars

Every year WCoBM hosts its City & Awards luncheon to celebrate the achievements of people the Company supports in training and education through its charitable fund. This year, Ryan Edwards of Kellaway Building Supplies was among the three BMF students to be awarded a prize, winning ‘Best Student’ with the BMF Diploma in Merchanting. The Master Pippa Latham and Guest of Honour General The Lord Dannatt presented Ryan with an engraved tankard and a cheque for £1,000.

Ryan joined Kellaway in February 2016 as Operations Supervisor and within a few months, he moved to the Stonehouse branch in Gloucestershire as Assistant Branch Manager. Although the construction industry wasn’t new to Ryan – his father was a builder/ stonemason and Ryan had previously worked with a landscape company – it was his first role with a builders’ merchant.

“I was put forward for the BMF Diploma by my Operations Manager Mike Nash,” explains Ryan. “It took 27 months to complete the course, and consisted of nine modules – allowing three months to complete each module – with a classroom session at the start of each one. The course has been extremely beneficial to my personal learning and development, and invaluable in my current role. I feel I have a greater sense of direction, am more focused and effective, and more motivated. It’s helped strengthen my skills in areas where I needed more support and overall given me greater career satisfaction.”

When asked for his view of the builders’ merchant sector and the potential career opportunities for young people, Ryan said there is “an abundance of potential opportunities within the merchant sector, but it’s not promoted nearly enough to young people and school leavers like the trades eg Plumber, Gas engineer and Electrician.

“The benefits of working in the builders’ merchant sector are the many possibilities for career progression and the training available to support your career development,” continues Ryan. “So my advice to other young people considering a career in construction or in the building materials sector is to find out more and jump in. This is a growing industry with excellent opportunities to progress, including gaining recognised qualifications combined with high earning potential.”

Ryan is a fantastic example of how young people can be motivated to achieve with the support of industry specific training and recognised qualifications. The Diploma is supporting Ryan’s career development and generating encouraging words for others.

Plugging the skills gap

According to the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) the industry will need to recruit an extra 168,500 workers over the next five years to support construction growth and make up for an ageing workforce. That is a lot of new workers to find! So it’s more important than ever to show how working in our industry can be fulfilling and rewarding, and overcome any negative misperceptions. One way of doing this is to improve awareness of the scope of training and development, and the availability of financial support to those that are unable to fund qualifications individually or via their employer.

WCoBM has dedicated funds to support training and education in the merchant sector, and recently launched a new bursary worth up to £2,000 a person. Available through its Charity Fund, the bursary is open to apprentices and students looking to work for a merchant or supplier to a builders’ merchant, and to people already working in the sector.

Applications for the bursary are subject to specific criteria. For more information and a detailed breakdown, visit