Employer Spotlight: MAC Roofing & Contracting Ltd

MAC Roofing & Contracting Ltd is one of the largest roofing and cladding firms in the UK. Formed in 1975, they’ve been waterproofing British buildings for nearly half a century (as a rule of thumb, if you’re under a MAC roof then you won’t need a Mac raincoat).

We’ve had the pleasure of working with dozens of MAC employees and subcontractors, helping them gain NVQs in Cladding, Waterproof Membrane Roofing Systems, Supervision and Management.

Wanting to know more about the company and its approach to staff training and qualifications, we got on the phone with Pete Siddall, MAC’s Operations Lead for fabrications.

Thanks for joining us, Pete. First question: Can you provide us with a brief description of MAC Roofing and the work you’re involved in?

As a group – we’re now a group of companies – we’ve got MAC Roofing & Contracting Ltd, which is the main company, and they deliver different types of roofing and cladding schemes across the country. Then we’ve got a company called GRS, which is Graham Roofing Scotland – that’s our Scotland branch. We’ve got our southern office down in Cambridge, then we’ve also MAC Roofing limited, which is the fabrication side of the business that I look after and we provide all the flashings, rainscreen cladding systems, cappings and aluminium supports etc. to the group. On the scale of how much work we do each year, I’d say we’re in the top five roofing contractors in the country. I’ve been with the company for 17 years now; since I was 17 years old.

MAC must be a pretty good company to work for if you joined after leaving school and stuck with them ever since.

Yes, they’ve always done right by me and I think they do right by anybody who’s willing to work hard and take the opportunities that come their way. They always look to promote from within. So, if somebody’s retiring or moving on, for example, they’ll always look within the group first to promote from within. And that’s something that’s been a massive benefit to me.

MAC Roofing & Contracting Ltd.

You’re currently the Operations Lead in the fabrications part of the business. Can you tell us about that role and the 17 years that led up to it?

I started before we were MAC Roofing Ltd – we used to be JWD Rainwater Systems. I started on the tools as a cladding apprentice and then worked my way up, got my own team of lads and started to supervise jobs. I was pretty much supervising our largest schemes when MAC bought us out in 2016. At that time, MAC were already giving us around 80% of our work so I had a good relationship with the owners of the group. I then went on to become a site manager on larger cladding jobs before moving into contracts management where I was overseeing a large number of projects.

When the opportunity came up to work full-time on the manufacturing side local to me, I became Operations Lead for fabrications. I’ve kind of got a foot in both camps – I’ve still got projects going on onsite and I still provide support for site managers if they’re working on projects with difficult or intricate cladding systems / details. That’s the kind of thing I specialise in and they can lean on me for support if need be.

I am involved alongside the other Ops leads in the labour allocation each week and day-to-day goings on onsite because it all feeds back into the fabrication side and what materials we’re going to need and when. So, I kind of straddle the two.

I’ve been doing this now for coming up to three years. The company is constantly growing. We’ve recently purchased land near our current factory and we’ve had plans approved now for a new two-storey factory coming in 2024 because we’ve outgrown the current facility.

Is the new factory being built for your arm of the business?

Yes, it’s a new purpose-built factory for fabrications. The plan for that is to take our Cladding systems and other products to mass market because, at the minute, we can only just about facilitate what we’ve got within the group.

We’ve developed our own cladding systems. We’ve got four new cladding systems which we’ve had tested by CWCT (Centre for Window and Cladding Technology) and we’re currently having these fire tested. We’re hoping to run them out to mass market next year and we’re also launching a new group website in the first quarter of 2024.

It sounds like a busy and exciting time although we were already aware that MAC is a nationwide operation with projects all over the country. Do you need to travel for your role, Pete, or are you primarily working in the North West?

At one time I was flying around the country – as you can imagine, we have schemes all over. But now I’m concentrating on the fabrications, I’m just based in the North West, here in Hyde. I do occasionally have to venture out to some of the schemes that we’ve got in London, the midlands and Scotland but I’m predominantly based here, day-to-day.

Here’s a re-occurring question we like to ask during our employer interviews. What would you say is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a company over the last year or so? Any unique or different challenges that have popped up recently? It’s getting on for a few years now but what impact did Covid have on the business?

The backlog from Covid with the materials; I wouldn’t say we struggled because we’re a strong and successful business but…if you look at some of the eye-watering prices we were having to pay for materials…that did have an impact on the business and its margins financially.

The biggest difficulty that I encounter from a personal point of view in the fabrication company is the demand of the sites, rather than whether we’ve got a full order book. The demand for materials is constant and relentless. We have enough work to be working here 24 hours a day and are in the midst of trying to set up a double shift pattern at the moment.

For the company as a whole, I think Lead times on materials would sometimes come back to bite us on the backside since Covid if we’re used to getting things within six weeks and suddenly that’s moved up to 12, or even 20 weeks.

The amount of work we’ve got on and the amount of work we’ve got to deliver in certain timeframes is always a challenge.

Moving onto training and qualifications. We’ve delivered a large number of NVQs to your employees and sub-contractors over the last few years. What has been the main driving force for acquiring these qualifications?

I think there’s a bit of everything involved. We’re big on educating our staff and helping our people to improve. That was one driving factor. It also feeds back into the CSCS card scheme. A few of our main contractors now insist that if you are carrying out specific work, you must prove you have got a qualification to do that work. If you’re a cladder for example and you’re installing a cladding system on a certain project, you need to have a cladding card. That plays a role, but I think the main factor [behind qualifications] is simply the drive to improve, develop and educate our staff.

Our Managing Director has never had the approach to point fingers and call people out. With mistakes – even mistakes on a large scale – it’s always been the case that we address it through the educational side of things: Why do we make that choice? How can we stop this from happening again? Does this person need XYZ support? As opposed to: Get rid of that person! Our MD is very patient and understanding in that sense. And he’ll always look to provide support and give advice as opposed to getting the shotgun out!

In NVQ assessment for experienced workers, which is what DMR specialises in, training and learning forms part of the process, but it’s also an assessment programme for people who’ve already gained the skills for the job but don’t have a qualification to back it up. But what about people who are new to the role? How does MAC train them for the job? Do you take on apprentices and do you provide any kind of on-the-job training for people who haven’t yet acquired those skills?

There are a few things we do in my part of the business. We’ve recently started an apprenticeship scheme. On the shop floor – welders, sheet metal workers, etc. And then we’ve also got a couple of trainees in site management and a couple in quantity surveying. They’ll sit on a large scheme and shadow an experienced manager. That’s how we do it to help them gain experience and learn the “MAC way”. Sometimes it would be somebody who shows willing and initiative and who’s just come off the tools maybe. Having that background of knowledge and having done the job already [at the trade level] can be a massive benefit to somebody who’s moving on to the management side of things. We get them to shadow the right people and then gradually give them more opportunities, more responsibility and further training and support.

Jumping back onto NVQs again, Pete. In your opinion, how did your employees and subcontractors react to being enrolled on the qualifications? Were they generally motivated or excited about doing an NVQ? And did you encounter any resistance or negative feedback?

No, it was very positive. Don’t get me wrong; some site lads are set in their ways and aren’t interested in laptops or computers – it can obviously be a bit daunting and a struggle for someone like that. But overall, they saw it as a benefit and said, “MAC are offering us this, it’s not going to cost us any money and we’re going to end up with a fully-fledged qualification”. I think anybody would be a bit daft to either turn it down or pull their face at it.

Diane [Group Administrator, Diane Massey) has been brilliant, chasing the lads on things – have you done this; can you make sure you do that – and helping to drive the need within the company to get the NVQs completed. But the lads, on the whole, have been very receptive and on board with it. It’s been great for everyone involved. Having qualifications improves the calibre of people you’ve got working for you and shows you’re going in the right direction. It’s been a positive for everybody.

How did you find the actual assessment and training process for the NVQs we’ve delivered for you? Was it flexible enough to meet the needs of your business

When I first started my Level 6 NVQ in Management, I struggled to coordinate things with my assessor at first. It was through no fault of his own and no fault of my own but we both had quite a lot on and kept missing each other. Then another assessor picked it up. He came to see me and we did face-to-face interviews and recordings. That worked very well because we covered a lot of ground in just a few hours, and then we’d do it again a few weeks later. That approach really worked for me. He also came to our office where I was set up, and as I was talking I could pull up different things – programmes that I’ve done, examples of orders, examples of RAMS, etc – and I had it all at my fingertips at my desk. I think that worked for both of us because we got through it quite quickly. My assessor was great; he was absolutely fantastic.

Have you seen many benefits to the business that are directly related to having the NVQs?

Yes. We work with five or six key clients, and I think one of the main benefits is peace of mind for those clients. It’s the fact you’re getting qualified personnel on your jobs. It’s the same whether it’s Level 2, Level 3 or even up to Level 6 management; I think it puts clients’ minds at rest that they’ve got the right people on the job who are educated and who can deliver a good scheme first time around. I think that’s been the main benefit to the company. And in terms of our employees, I think it can only be positive when you’re offering somebody the chance to get better in their career and a qualification that gives them recognition for the skilled job they’re doing.

Let’s finish by moving away from training and qualifications to another topic we’re equally passionate about: community support and ‘giving back’. Is MAC involved with supporting any community groups or charities?

Our senior members of staff and directors are going out to schools to give careers and business talks. We’ve been taking it in turns to visit a different school each month and speak to their pupils.

We’ve got a couple of local charities that we support year in year out with different things arranged each year and in the spring of 2022 we cladded “Bobby’s Base” which is a free health and wellbeing support unit locally in Liverpool in memory of a young boy, Bobby Colleran, who died in a tragic road accident in 2014.

“Bobby’s Base” health and wellbeing support unit Liverpool.

MAC Roofing & Contracting Ltd accessed NVQ funding through the European Social Fund and Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

Could your roofing and cladding firm benefit from government-funded NVQ assessment like MAC Roofing & Contracting Ltd? To check your eligibility, call us on 01942 673047 or visit our NVQ funding page.

Scroll to Top