Essex Youthbuild lays great career foundation for youngsters

Founded in 2005, Essex Youthbuild, a Chelmsford-based charity, has been working with youngsters aged 14-19 in the country for more than 12 years.

Essex Youthbuild (EYB) provides construction and employability training at its workshop in Chelmsford, alongside mentoring and support, to help young people gain skills and, potentially, a career in the construction industry. Staff and volunteers at the centre between them have around 140 years’ experience in the construction industry and include two bricklayers, a carpenter and a health and safety manager.

EYB’s work can be broken down into three parts;

  • Key Stage 4: Young people aged 14-16, still at school, come to Essex Youthbuild to do a City & Guilds’ Level 1 Construction Skills course as a practical/vocational element to their curriculum.  This programme covers schools in Chelmsford and surrounding districts.
  • 16-19 year olds: Those who have left school and are currently not in education, employment or training from all over Essex. EYB works with this group to gain City & Guilds’ Level 1 qualifications, a Level 1 Award in health and safety in a construction environment and a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card. This group also benefits from one-to-one maths and English tuition leading to bitesize qualifications up to Level 2.
  • EYB Trade School, a new addition in 2017, is a free, after-school activity for 12- to 16-year-olds. The aim is to give this group of young people some practical experience in construction skills. This can help young people gain in self-confidence and self-esteem as well as try out a trade and see if it is something they might like to pursue as a career or just gain some skills that will prove useful in later life.

EYB helps all its students with applications for college, apprenticeships, traineeships and jobs. In 2017, more than 70% of Essex Youthbuild’s Key Stage 4 students went on to college in September to continue their training in construction, on to Level 2 qualifications and beyond.

A major challenge for Essex Youthbuild, however, is finding enough apprenticeships and traineeships for its 16- to 19-year-old cohort. Some of these young people will go back into mainstream education and go to college but there is a growing number who want to take their first steps into the construction industry. Jane Cosh, EYB manager, says “We have a number of young people who do extremely well on the course and gain a good basic skill set but there just isn’t enough entry-level opportunities for young people in construction in Essex, despite the huge amount of housebuilding going on.”

While apprenticeships are few and far between, they are an excellent way to get in to the construction industry, to further knowledge and qualifications whilst gaining valuable work experience.

To combat this problem, Essex Youthbuild is looking seriously at setting up a social enterprise in 2018 to provide some paid work experience for these young people out in the community and give some of them the opportunity of gaining a Level 2 NVQ whilst working for the enterprise.

The calibre of Essex Youthbuild’s young people was recently evidenced at the national Young Builder of the Year Awards 2017, which took place at the House of Commons in October. Two of EYB’s students were honoured with one winning the 14- to 18-year-old category, and another student receiving a Commendation. EYB itself was presented with a special award for its ongoing work with young people in the building industry.

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