Shropshire Star

Telford College helps inspire next generation of construction workers

It was 10am on a crisp, cold winter's morning and an area of Telford College was a hive of activity.

The apprentices are hard at work

Workmen were busy mixing concrete, laying bricks and digging holes, amongst other things.

But these were no ordinary workers. They were young apprentices on a Construction Ground Worker Apprenticeship – Level 2 course.

The teenagers – 16 to 17 – are months into their apprenticeship, learning all aspects of the trade with the college, working in close partnership with local companies including McPhillips, Kingswood Construction, Chasetown Civil Engineering, Baker Constructions, John Reilly and Lubstree Landscaping.

MV Kelly, JN Bentley, JRS Construction, JS Construction, Keble Heath and CR Large Contractors are other businesses working with the college at present.

The facitlies allow the apprentices to work on different scenarios

The apprentices busily go about their work at an impressive facility which resembles a building site, with a whole raft of different scenarios set up for them to tackle – from drainage challenges, to block paving and putting kerbs in.

They are overlooked by training assessors but there's a real sense that these youngsters are fully focused on the tasks in hand and go about their business with little need for assistance.

Kai Ginifer, 17, is among them and is training at the college alongside work at McPhillips.

"I've been really enjoying it," he says, speaking with boundless enthusiasm. "It's been great here because you get to do things yourself at a really good site, with the shed and all the tools we need. I’ve been working with McPhillips for over a year. It’s very hands on and I absolutely love it.

"But it's great to come to the college because I’m really enjoying the different jobs I get involved with on site, working with the team and my time at college with the other apprentices."

There are currently 16 apprentices on the Groundworkers course, overlooked by training assessors Gary Davies and John Holloway.

They are working from Tuesday to Friday, one week in every five.

There is classroom based work to be done, such as a focus on health and safety. But Gary says: "We try to get them outside as much as we can. We'd rather teach them in a hands-on way because that is what they will be experiencing in a work environment.

John and Gary

"This site we have here is fantastic. We can set up different scenarios so we have some of them tackling traffic calming tasks and we can set up a splitter island.

"We have areas where they are working on block paving – taking it up and reinstating it – plus tarmacing or concreting as a task, doing drainage works or simulating the repair to a pavement of various sizes.

"It's great because we get to work with different people. This group are of a similar age but we have had an apprentice who was 38, wanting a change and to get into a company, as well as women too. It's an apprenticeship for everyone."

John added: "We have a great group of lads at the moment who are really willing to learn

"We try to create scenarios which they will come across on site. If they can visualise it at this site and get an opportunity to be hands-on, it makes it so much better for them. They like being out here and I completely understand that."

John says he finds his own role rewarding while the benefits at the end of the course are there for the apprentices.

"I get a massive buzz out of seeing the apprentices develop," he says. "It's a nice college to work at and we all want the lads to succeed.

"They are all getting proper jobs at the end of it which is a massive thing. And the employers I deal with have a lot of time for the apprentices here. I always say to the lads, if they put in the graft and have a go, everyone will give them time and commitment."

David Moreton, Business Programme Manager, says the course and the facilities used in training the apprentices are another example of Telford College making its mark.

"We want to become a centre of excellence in what we do," he said. "That's our ambition.

"With our construction site, employers look at it and have been so impressed by the facilities and our provision. We get good outcomes and we wouldn't get that if it wasn't a good site."

The Groundworks scheme is an 18-month apprenticeship. The training is based on block release with the apprentice attending college for one week every month.

Busy on the site

During company-based training the apprentice must complete a record of evidence and Telford College works with the employer to create a specific development plan to meet the apprenticeship standards.

While working to the plan in the workplace, the apprentice tracks the journey mapping to the required standards showing valuable knowledge, skills and practical experience gained.

"We have the theoretical side to it but we try to minimise it as, in construction, things are very hands on," adds David. "That physical learning is the type they take on board, which is more beneficial

"We roadmap the apprentice journey, simplifying and breaking things into blocks. So there will be, say, a health and safety and that is academic.

"But we have tasks within that, going out on the site and seeing if they can identify hazards and setting hazards up for each other.

"There are blocks on highways work – cable avoidance and traffic management, road signs, which is also a massive responsibility and things such as installing street and ironworks such as manholes plus excavation – digging up and reinstatement – and installing kerbs and edging.

"We work with the apprentices to shape and mould them as a groundworker, helping them refine skills and learn new ones. We are having great success with this apprenticeship course, building strong links with companies, both locally and nationally.

"I want businesses to think of Telford College as the place to send their apprentices for groundworks and highways support and I believe we are building that reputation."

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