Apprenticeships bring fresh hope for a new generation
12 February 2020 | Kate Cusack
The construction industry recognises that it has a skills shortage. In response, employers like Knights Brown are grappling with the challenge of finding new ways to attract, and keep, the sought-after next generation.
For our part, we got together with 10 other Hampshire-based employers and Fareham College to set up the Civil Engineering Apprenticeship Standard (Level 2).
Since 2017 this has been feeding a fresh supply of new recruits into our business. Together with our graduates and trainees, apprentices now make up 12% of our employees.
To mark National Apprenticeship Week, we thought we’d check in with some of them to see how things are going.
James has recently completed the two year course. Eve has completed her 20 weeks in college and is now on site full time. Thulani currently spends most of his time at the Civil Engineering Training Centre undertaking the intensive training that will allow him to gain the certifications and licenses that will enable him to start work on site. Adam has come to us via a different route, studying on a day-release basis at Neath Port Talbot College.
For all of them, we found that their apprenticeship is giving them a real sense of direction and opened up a whole new world of opportunity.
James, Level 2 Groundworker
With his dad already working in construction, James was focussed in his ambition to get into civil engineering. The Civil Engineering Apprenticeship was the perfect stepping-stone between school, a carpentry course and getting on to site.
He was in the first cohort to take the new apprenticeship and has now graduated as a level two groundworker. He remains clear in his ambitions and intends to gain the experience and certificates he needs to make the step up to site ganger or foreman.
On his journey so far, he has been involved with a number of sites including the high profile Jaguar Land Rover showroom in Christchurch. He very much appreciates the variety and new experiences he gets to enjoy.
James’ advice: “Don’t be shy to share your ideas on site, it’s always good to communicate. Gain as much experience as you can and say yes to trying something new. And offer to help!”
Eve, Apprentice Groundworker
Since studying art at college, Eve was looking for a route that would allow her to use her skillset in a more practical manner. Finding herself working in her step-dad’s construction business and enjoying the variety of it, she realised it might be something she could progress. This led to her discovering the Civil Engineering Apprenticeship. Not only did the course content suit her down to the ground, but she could earn a living even while she studied. She jumped at the chance to apply and hasn’t looked back since.
Of course, it’s really hard work, mentally and physically. Mentally, Eve feels she has a lot to live up to people’s expectations and initially, she wasn’t sure what people would make of a woman apprentice. Physically, she’s not strong enough to do everything she’d like but she gives everything a good go and if she can’t quite manage it, then someone will always step up to offer help.
A year into the apprenticeship and Eve is thrilled with how things are going. She loves the atmosphere on site, learning new things all the time, and likes that the work she is doing contributes to improving places for people.
Eve’s advice to others: “Just try it. It might not work but you have to try to find out. Be prepared to work hard and you’ll get the rewards of an interesting job with loads of variety. I’d definitely recommend it.”
Thulani, Apprentice Groundworker
Thulani already had a dumper license and was wondering how to progress to the next level. He was looking into an NVQ when he came across the Civil Engineering Apprenticeship. It seemed a far better option as he’d be able to learn a new set of skills to go alongside his dumper driving.
Just six months into his course, Thulani is enjoying the variety and has learnt so much. He has already been involved with two significant and diverse projects; one bridge and highways work and the other in Portsmouth International Port.
Spending time on site as part of a team is an added bonus as others are always willing to share their experiences to help him improve.
He has ambitions to get involved with much bigger machines but in the meantime, Thulani’s advice is: “Stay fit, work hard and put in the hours. The rewards are worth it. There’s so much more to construction than you’d ever think.”
Adam, Apprentice Engineer
Struggling to find the right direction to take his career in, Adam had started on several different paths only to be disillusioned. Conscious that he didn’t want to be stuck in a classroom full time and keen to learn some practical skills, he has now found what seems to be the ideal balance.
One day a week he attends Neath Port Talbot College where he is working towards a BTEC Level 3 Construction – Civil Engineering for Technicians qualification. The rest of the time, he’s on site gaining the practical skills and experience that will help him become a qualified engineer.
Just four months into the two-year course, Adam thinks he might now have ‘found his thing’. Facing new challenges every day, trying new things and learning something new all the time, is exactly what he was missing. In the long run, he can see himself continuing his studies to a higher level and progressing his career with Knights Brown.
Based on site at Aberavon in south Wales, he is enjoying the sea air, being part of the team, and interacting with passers-by.
Adam says: “This experience has been a big eye opener for me and given me a path in the right direction. There are so many opportunities. My advice is, just do it, make the jump if you’re interested and go for it. It’s definitely living up to my expectations.”
Courses at the Civil Engineering Training Centre start twice a year in March and September.