Earlier this year, we set out to try to create a way forward for something that is very close to our hearts: white collar apprenticeship training for the civil engineers of tomorrow.
The construction industry needs to attract enthusiastic young people who may ultimately progress through the ranks to become project managers, quantity surveyors, planners, estimators and so on.
Traditionally, the route to enter the industry, and ultimately construction management, is following a degree in civil or building engineering, but there is clearly a requirement for a less academic more practical route.
To be a great engineer you first have to be an engineer’s assistant, as it helps to reduce errors and learn basic engineering principles. This goes hand in hand with our grassroots learning philosophy. For example, teaching apprentices practical skills such as physically laying drainage and placing concrete.
“To be a great engineer you first have to be an engineer’s assistant, as it helps to reduce errors and learn basic engineering principles”
Having come from a construction industry background, I also feel that apprentices often prove themselves to be incredibly loyal, which is supported by government statistics.
To ensure that this is embraced it has to be made easy for the employer and flexible to suit the transient nature of our industry.
Bearing all this in mind, we came up with the site engineer apprenticeship programme as a hands-on alternative to college or university study and as another means of alleviating construction skills shortages.
These bespoke apprenticeships are designed very much to meet employers’ specific needs. Unlike college-based training, construction firms and young people can start our apprenticeships any time of the year, anywhere in the UK, in line with project location and start dates.
“Apprentices often prove themselves to be incredibly loyal, which is supported by government statistics”
Prior to joining the programme, suitable candidates are put through a vigorous recruitment process aimed to identify attitude, ability, desire and common sense. Whilst we facilitate the whole process, the final decision-making is made by the ultimate line manager.
We have several existing and planned hubs throughout England. Hubs are a real classroom where the lecturer and apprentices attend for the day release classroom training. Hubs are set up as a carousel ensuring new apprentices can join a hub at any point.
This model has been designed with the apprenticeship reform in mind and was put together from an employer’s perspective by industry experts resulting in an employer-led programme using current apprenticeship funding.
This flexible hands-on approach to learning the civil engineering profession is coupled with a financial support for employers from the CITB in the form of grants.
“Our apprentices are working and training for 30 months towards a level 3 technical apprenticeship in civil engineering and gaining practical experience in all aspects of construction”
Carillion, Hochtief Construction and Morgan Sindall have taken on site engineer apprentices this year through Learning Skills Partnership.
Their apprentices are now working and training for 30 months towards a level 3 technical apprenticeship in civil engineering and gaining practical experience in all aspects of construction, including surveying, site setting out, quantity surveying, planning and office management.
To us this seems like a real way forward. But we have also found that offering different routes into the industry is important to all construction companies - it is something that they want to promote and support. We’re behind that every inch of the way.
Simon Alsop is director of the Learning Skills Partnership.