In the latest of our Apprenticeship Week articles, we speak to nmcn’s new learning and development manager Jodie Waddington about why apprenticeships are so important to developing the business and the industry.
Having spent much of my career in the banking sector, construction is a totally new challenge for me but it’s certainly one which poses some exciting opportunities. We’re working in an industry which is not new to apprenticeships but also one that is changing significantly in its approach to apprenticeships.
In the past it has not been unusual for construction apprentices to be seen as the site tea maker but this attitude is no longer something that fits in the modern construction world, and it is something that nmcn is proud to look beyond.
We firmly believe that our people are at the heart of our business and we should do all we can to support them to develop however they wish, whether that be at the very start of their career or after they’ve established their roles and are ready to take the next step and widen their skills base.
People development at every level
Last year we had a record number of apprenticeship applications and in September 59 new apprentices joined us on our level three apprenticeship scheme. These ranged from 16-year-old school leavers like Erin Graham to later life career changers including one member of our telecoms team who started our apprenticeship scheme at 29. Our newest apprentices join our 2018 intake along with a further 38 members of the team across all our business units who are currently enrolled on a higher-level apprenticeship scheme.
Since the Apprenticeship Levy was introduced in 2017, we’ve been able to open up new opportunities for our more senior team members to progress and widen their skill set. This means we’re able to offer degree level apprenticeships which allow for formal training in courses such as civil engineering, quantity surveying and electrical engineering. The double benefit of this is that we’re able to support our people to gain new skills while also bringing that learning directly into the business where it can be shared with the wider team and help us to grow our business.
Of course, on-going learning isn’t something new to the business but with higher level apprenticeships we’re able to offer this without potential participants left wondering how they’re going to fit studying for a degree into an already hectic schedule of full-time work and family commitments. This way we can support our apprentices, at every level by giving them one day every week away from their day to day jobs to focus on their studies – something that can only benefit both them and the business in the long run.
The future of apprenticeships
So, what are the next steps for apprenticeships? In terms of our entry level scheme for those new to the industry we’re rolling out a new pilot to ensure our existing schemes are totally up to date and enable us to attract even more new talent to the business.
We’ve changed the format of our apprenticeships so that all our new team members can get as wide a picture of their role and business unit as possible by increasing one-to-one mentoring and enabling our apprentices to build up detailed and varied evidence folders relating to their roles.
This is especially important with our young school leavers who often are restricted in some of their site duties because of their age, this new format will enable them to use time that they can’t spend on-site to gain office based experience that specifically relates to their role.
When it comes to higher-level apprenticeships, we want to focus on increasing the level of awareness around the opportunities available to our people at every level of the business in helping them to progress their careers. Generally, we’ve found that once they know that there is a learning and development opportunity that will fit in with their existing roles, there is a lot of enthusiasm to get involved.
Encouraging diversity through apprenticeships
For the construction industry, apprenticeships represent a significant opportunity for us all to attract a more diverse workforce. Apprenticeships in construction are no longer restricted to site and manual roles. These days construction apprenticeships cover everything from site engineers, mechanical engineers, designers, procurement and quantity surveying and absolutely everything in between meaning potential talent is not put off by the idea that construction apprenticeships are “just for boys”.
The beauty of apprenticeships is that they’re accessible to everyone helping to overcome traditional barriers faced by young people of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. The construction industry is still facing a major challenge in attracting more diverse talent and apprenticeships could offer a great way to begin to address that.
Find out more about apprenticeship opportunities at nmcn by visiting our careers page.
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