The YEABI was established in 1922, in the aftermath of the First World War, with a view to improving industry practices for the benefit of the building trade and the general public. In December of that year, a meeting of Building Teachers was held at Bradford Technical College. They decided to form an association of Building Teachers, and in January 1923 the Yorkshire Educational Association for the Building Industry met for the first time. The first Chairman was Dr R E Stradling, first Secretary, W B McKay, and first President was Reeves Charlesworth, a Sheffield City Councillor. Charlesworth was succeeded in 1934 by W H Forsdike, who held the post for over 25 years.
In the summer of 1923 the YEABI ran its first training course for Building Teachers on "the Properties of Building Materials", and much of 1923 was spent on deciding on the aims of the organisation. These were:
1) The promotion of educational training of those engaged in the Building Industry
2) The consideration of schemes for Building Education
3) The arrangement of meetings for the discussion of technical matters relating to the Building Industry
4) The promotion of organised Building Research.
One of the YEABI's early achievements was to create a formal building qualification that acted as a forerunner of the O-levels (Ordinary National Certificate).
In the 1950s the YEABI’s stated aim was ‘to foster education and training of the highest standards for all engaged in building in Yorkshire.’ To support this central purpose, it sought to promote ‘co-operation between the Industry, technical colleges and other bodies providing facilities for education and training’; to initiate or improve such facilities as the needs of industry changed; to give consideration to schemes for building education at every level and advise the Yorkshire Council for Further Education; disseminate and publish information of interest to members and that would advance the aims of the organisation; organise conferences on building education and training; Encourage experimentation and research into problems of education and training; organise courses, demonstrations, exhibitions and social outings; collaborate with other bodies working in these areas. By 1966 the Association's members consisted of representatives from 'the Yorkshire Employers, Operatives and Professional organisations, the Ministry of Public Building and Works and the heads of all the building departments of technical colleges in the area.'
In 1928 the Yorkshire Council for Further Education (YCFE) was formed, and asked YEABI to act as its Building Advisory Committee. This became one of the YEABI’s central functions. The YCFE was a standing committee, tasked with advising the Secretaries of State on matters concerning Further Education. It met between four and ten times a year.
In 1958 YEABI was chaired by P M Shepherd. Much of its administrative affairs seem to have been taken on by D M Green, Personnel Advisor at The Shepherd Group, and Assistant Secretary and later Honorary Secretary of the YEABI. In addition to his administrative role, Green taught YEABI courses on personnel management.
The YEABI had a close relationship to the Yorkshire Federation of Building Trades Employers, and in 1960 it was resolved that representatives of the Federation should normally act as Chairman and Vice Chairman of the YEABI Council. Other members of the Council were drawn from the Yorkshire Federation of Master Plumbers, Yorkshire Federation of Building Trades Operatives, Institute of Builders, various Yorkshire Colleges, the Youth Employment Service, the Ministry of Works and Ministry of Education. From 1961 the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), and the Institute of Quantity Surveyors were also represented. At times the local authorities also sent representatives, for instance Leeds City Education Authority sent its Deputy Education Officer in 1958.
The YEABI formed links with similar bodies elsewhere in the country, for instance the Scottish Association for Building Education, and the North Western Educational Association for the Building Industry (NWEABI)..
From 1962 the YEABI also became involved in examinations, employing a staff of examiners for the purpose.
The YEABI published its own, short newsletter from 1958. ‘Digest’ had a circulation of around 2000 copies, and was intended to provide “news, information and particulars to facilitate training in the Building Industry in Yorkshire for all ages and experience.” It was distributed to members, those in education and in the building trade, as well as professional bodies. Chairman P M Shepherd came up with the idea of having a journal, provided much of the content for its early issues, and functioned as editor. Assistant Secretary D M Green seems to have taken over this role. Publication was reduced to two issues a year in 1960 in order to reduce costs.
Some of the YEABI’s activities recorded in the archive include running competitions and awards schemes for apprentices, designing syllabuses, drafting exams, ensuring quality control for building courses, compiling information on existing educational provision and making decisions on the most suitable locations for new courses. It organised both its own conferences and bi-annual joint conferences with the North Western Educational Association for the Building Industry and the Yorkshire Federation of Building Trades Employers.
Some of the major issues the YEABI committee discussed included ‘wastage’ of apprentices (ie the drop-out rate), day release versus evening release courses for apprentices, the recruitment of grammar school leavers and the introduction of the 1964 Industrial Training Act.
When they proposed winding it up in October 1966, the YEABI’s committee members wanted its records to go to the Institute of Builders to be kept and used. However this plan changed and by September 1967 the YEABI was dissolved and Huddersfield Technical Teachers Training College had acquired the papers for its archive. The final committee meeting papers discuss the functions and activities of the YEABI and the work of other, related organisations.