With education a key element in any career in housebuilding, we speak to Victoria Taylor, director of construction at The Sheffield College about courses, student work experience and how companies can secure the best people for their teams.
Please tell us about The Sheffield College and what housebuilding-related courses it runs.
The Sheffield College provides full-time and part-time academic, vocational and professional courses to approximately 16,000 young people and adults every year, and has a £321m economic impact on the city annually. The curriculum offer includes apprenticeships, vocational diplomas, A Levels, access courses, and foundation and honours degrees.
Further education colleges play a key role in helping the construction and housebuilding sectors address their wider workforce development needs. The Sheffield College offers a broad range of construction courses at different levels that are employer responsive. We contribute to skills needs for Sheffield City Region employers and also work with national employers including the Horbury Group, Keepmoat Homes, Tarmac and Wates.
Our courses equip our students with the skills they need to find employment, and contribute to filling urgent skills gaps, enabling businesses to grow. Being based in South Yorkshire, we also have a role to play in supporting the broader Northern Powerhouse strategy that seeks to increase productivity, build on the North’s strengths, raise education and skills levels and unlock housing.
In terms of the construction curriculum offer, the College offers apprenticeships and diplomas at a range of levels as well as university level qualifications, such as higher national certificates and diplomas in civil engineering. Our students start at the right level for them and have opportunities to progress.
Course subjects offered include bricklaying, carpentry and joinery, dry lining, formwork, highways maintenance, painting and decorating, plastering, plumbing, property maintenance operative, sign making and tiling as well as qualifications that develop managerial skills such as site supervision.
We are also exploring pre-apprenticeships in, for example, brickwork, electrical, joinery, and painting and decorating, so that applicants get the chance to gain experience with an employer as a stepping stone into the industry and an apprenticeship.
Is construction a very popular sector for student applications – housebuilding in particular – and what qualifications do people need in order to apply?
Construction courses are in high demand due to the good career and employment prospects. This year, we have seen a significant increase in apprenticeship applications. The entry requirements vary depending on the level and type of course that you are applying for.
For example, Level 1, 2 and 3 courses generally require four GCSEs. The grades vary depending on the level of the course that you are applying for. University level qualifications, such as a higher national certificate or higher national diploma, require a Level 3 qualification or equivalent.
There is an opportunity for students to progress by working their way up through the different level courses. So, if they successfully complete a Level 3 qualification with us, there is the possibility of moving up to a university level course. More information is available on our website under each course listing.
What do you think is the appeal of construction courses?
Our students love the hands-on learning, and applying knowledge in a practical way. Construction draws on technical and problem solving skills. It’s very rewarding to create something from scratch. You get a real sense of pride and achievement.
There are fantastic employment and career prospects. You can build a lifelong career in the sector including progressing onto university level qualifications and management, if that’s your ambition.
This is especially true given the skills shortages and need for more talent coming through. Construction roles are well paid and there are opportunities to become self employed, set up and grow your own company or develop a career with an established larger employer.
You’re part of the Collab Group, which recently partnered with Keepmoat for training and apprenticeship courses – what sort of construction work experience can your students look forward to?
We are delighted to work with Keepmoat Homes, which recognises the importance of investing in people, identifying emerging talent and shaping the leaders of the future. We are committed to helping the construction industry build skills for the future to support their talent attraction and retention strategies. The apprenticeship levy provides large employers with a great opportunity to invest in and mould new talent to meet their business and skills needs.
The Collab Group of Colleges was selected by Keepmoat Homes, a nationally recognised homebuilder, to manage its apprenticeship and training provision across the UK. This is the first partnership of its kind between Collab Group and a major housebuilding company. The Collab Group is acting through The Sheffield College and the kind of experience that our students can look forward to involves high-quality, on-the-job training, where they gain hands on skills in addition to completing a qualification.
How can housebuilders work with you to get the skilled people they need?
We work with them to identify their skills needs, support with advice and information, and provide the training. The College works with around 850 employers delivering apprenticeship programmes in a wide range of industry sectors as well as bespoke training. In relation to the construction industry, for example, we have recently set up a new partnership with Phoenix Brickwork (UK) Limited, a Derbyshire-based employer. This year, the company decided to partner with the College to recruit four bricklaying apprentices to join their training programme because they want to address skills shortages and support employment growth.
The new recruits are being assigned to the Sheffield Retail Quarter, a new development underway in the city centre for main contractor, BAM Construction. We would urge any employers who want to find out more to visit www.sheffcol.ac.uk/employers, email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0114 2602600.
What’s the long-term career potential for someone who qualifies from one of your courses?
There are a lot of opportunities to progress, and up to university level, depending on each learner’s ambitions and aspirations. Some want to be successful working for large employers whilst others go on to be self employed or run their own businesses.
What should potential applicants do if they are interested in starting a course this year?
Please visit our website at www.sheffcol.ac.uk for more information about our courses. Applicants can contact us by calling 0114 260 2600 and emailing email@example.com. Employers interested in finding out how we can support them can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org