Archive 2016 10

23 Skills and Training “I was the first apprentice M-EC employed so it was very new for everybody,” explains Poulton. “However the company has supported me brilliantly, encouraging me to learn new disciplines and take on responsibilities alongside my academic studies. I’ve actually finished my apprenticeship now. I completed my HNC this summer and am starting a part-time Civil Engineering degree at Coventry University, supported by M-EC. “Without my apprenticeship I wouldn’t have my qualifications or work experience, and might be like some of my friends who went to university and are now struggling to find suitable jobs. It’s the best way to kick start a career.” Given confidence by Poulton’s success, M-EC has continued to offer apprenticeships annually, with the number of applicants, and recruits, growing each year. Apprentices begin their training either shadowing the civils team, conducting site visits, investigative work and learning to use AutoCAD, or with the geomatics team, undertaking land, measured building and topographical surveys using GPS equipment. Now in its fifth year, the latest intake means M-EC currently employs 15 apprentices across its four UK offices and managing director, Eddie Mewies is proud of how the scheme has evolved. “Our apprentice scheme has really gone from strength to strength and has undoubtedly supported our business development strategy. The apprentices we initially employed have all gone on to forge great careers with the company and are setting excellent examples to our newest trainees. “In addition, links with local colleges have proven invaluable in our search for “Nine per cent of Keepmoat’s staff, totalling 3,500 in all, is made up of apprentices, trainees or graduates – well above the industry average of five per cent – and the business has committed to growing that by 20 per cent.” talented young people,” adds Mewies. Having partnered with Leeds Beckett University, Keepmoat is also working with schools and colleges offering workshops, events and trainee programmes for students. The housebuilder, recently shortlisted for a Celebrating Construction in South Yorkshire (CCISY) training award, also runs Keepmoat Kickstart – a structured training programme that can be tailored to meet regional or community needs. Working with the Department for Work and Pensions to offer training days to those Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET), Mark Knight, Keepmoat’s regional managing director, explains: “There needs to be a strong focus on bringing new people through the recruitment and training process, with an emphasis on developing people already within the industry to ensure trainees, apprentices or lower level staff have the incentive to stay and progress.” More than 3,000 courses are undertaken at Keepmoat with 159 progressing into apprenticeships and 51 gaining employment with the company. The firm also boasts a retention rate of 98 per cent and a 27 per cent female workforce. “Nine per cent of Keepmoat’s staff, totalling 3,500 in all, is made up of apprentices, trainees or graduates – well above the industry average of five per cent – and the business has committed to growing that by 20 per cent,” adds Knight. And when it comes to attracting new talent, Paul Payne, managing director of construction and rail recruitment specialist One Way, says the focus should be on “growing our own” and encouraging more women into the sector. Multi-technical services company SPIE UK is firmly set on encouraging diversity with electrical engineer Lisa Cumming completing her fouryear apprenticeship in 2011. After leaving school aged 18 without any major qualifications, Cumming took a local bar job but in 2006 she decided to find a long-term career. The 30-year-old from Scotland, whose father is also an electrician at SPIE, encouraged her to consider an apprenticeship and “that was the initial push I needed,” explains Cumming, who says it was much easier than she expected to enrol on an apprenticeship scheme. “I enrolled into an intensive fouryear training scheme at Inverness College in January 2007 and throughout the course I alternated between classroom and on-the-job learning at SPIE.” The mum-of-one, who has worked for SPIE for the past 10 years, qualified with an Electrician SVQ in electrical technical services and believes apprenticeships are the best way to fill the industry’s skills gap. “I gained practical insight, fast and I now have a skill, and a career, for life,” she says. “The fact that my course was funded by SPIE pushed me to give 110 per cent in the classroom and in the field.” Although the number of women is increasing, just three of the 35 apprentices on her course were female, and Cumming says the pay gap and the assumption that engineering is a man’s industry need to change. “I do think apprenticeships like this are giving females a great route into the sector and will help us be seen as equals,” she says, but increasing the number of female leaders and lecturers would provide a real incentive “because walking into a lecture theatre filled and led by men is quite intimidating.” Recognised as a top 100 apprenticeship employer by the National Apprenticeship Service for the third consecutive year, developer Redrow also offers an array of training schemes and, with one in three employees promoted at the start of the Lisa Cumming Mark Knight Redrow Undergraduates 2016

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