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01 December 2014

Apprenticeship equips Somerset unemployed with new engineering skills’

Fifteen apprentices have been recruited by Laing O’Rourke in the South West in a unique new course that will help solve a shortage of skilled staff in the construction industry.

The fifteen, ranging in age from 21 to 46, are part way through a course at Bridgwater College in Somerset. In a mixture of classroom study and on the job training, they are being trained to be steelfixers, one of the most highly sought after skills in a resurgent construction industry.

Currently, there are 2600 steelfixers in the UK.  With several large infrastructure projects planned across the UK in the next few years, such as Hinkley Point C, HS2, and many commercial developments, major civil engineering companies like Laing O’Rourke will require significant numbers of new recruits in this specialist field in the next five years, and are working with government bodies and the educational sector to deliver a pipeline of new talent for the future.

Laing O’Rourke has developed the first UK Apprenticeship for steelfixers with support from Bridgwater College - an Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ vocational college, highly respected for their excellence in Mechanical and Civil Engineering skills training; NOCN - the awarding organisation; and the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB). Although these first apprentices are all drawn from the South West of England, and have a proposed major project on their doorstep at the Hinkley Point C new nuclear power station, their training is being delivered at construction projects across the country, and their newly acquired skills will be completely transferable around the world.

Steelfixing is at the heart of construction and the rebirth of infrastructure in the UK. It involves positioning and securing the key structural elements used in reinforced concrete on major projects. The work requires a detailed understanding of engineering drawings, increasingly delivered in a suite of Digital Engineering (BIM) plans, as well as off site and modular manufacturing techniques. Those completing the 18 month apprenticeship programme will have demonstrated a wide range of skills and excellence in Steelfixing and will be the first to have achieved this brand new Diploma at Level 2.

“We took a number of unemployed but talented local people, and have given them an amazing opportunity to acquire skills that are very much in demand,” said Andy Berry, Vice Principal of Bridgwater College. “Our course is unique because it’s the first in the UK to embrace the new skills and techniques, such as digital engineering and off site manufacturing, which could not have been delivered in a conventional way. The construction industry is changing rapidly, and these apprentices will have highly valuable skills which they will be able to utilise from day one”.

Caroline Blackman, Director of Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility at Laing O’Rourke, said “The EOS (Employer Ownership of Skills) Funding has supported this initiative from the outset and should be applauded.  With our stakeholder partners we have developed a new qualification that’s fit for the new infrastructure project currently being planned. We were able to make use of the support provided by EDF Energy’s local employment brokerage service, when recruiting these apprentices into the programme which has proved to be very successful. By giving people new skills in the latest methods of construction, we are equipping them to a new world of opportunities, bounded only by their enthusiasm and imagination.”

 

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