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Friday, 10 March 2017

GUEST BLOG: Apprenticeships Bio: Marie Cook

To mark the end of National Apprenticeship week, I have a guest blog from Amanda Boulton of Brown and Caroll. This Bio is about Marie Cook, an apprentice at Brown and Caroll and is an excellent example of what women all over the UK are achieving!

Marie is used to being something of a novelty on whichever building site she is working on. As an apprentice site carpenter, not only is she older than most apprentices due to having previously had a career as a chef manager, she is also among the tiny 1% of onsite construction workers who are female.

This can initially lead to some logistical issues – such as a sixty floor round trip to get to the ladies toilet facilities. However with more girls starting to consider apprenticeships in traditionally ‘male’ trades such as plumbing and carpentry, supported by initiatives such as Women In Construction, employers are gradually starting to wake up to the fact that they need to factor in the ‘ladies’ when setting up building sites.

In her late thirties, Marie was looking for a career change and as someone who had always been practical and hands on when it came to fixing things, was considering plumbing. However, she discovered carpentry on a 13 week multi-skills course and decided that working with wood was the way forward. After securing a work placement with Brown & Carroll 18 months ago, Marie began her apprenticeship and having completed Level 1 is now gathering evidence for her Level 2 NVQ in Site Carpentry.

From Marie herself:

“It was daunting at first, coming onto an all-male building site, and I did have preconceptions of your stereotypical builder. However, I have been pleasantly surprised at how helpful and supportive everyone has been. Brown & Carroll have been great at giving me opportunities and helping me to grow, we’re already talking about NVQ Level 3. I’m enjoying learning new skills and want to carry on progressing. I’m willing to muck in and get on with it just like everyone else, so now I’m just seen as one of the team. Women bring different skills and thought processes to the job, which can be an advantage when problem solving and even having smaller hands has occasionally come in useful! I enjoy helping to inspire other young women and recently met a 20 year old who has taken up carpentry after hearing me speak at an event.”


Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Closing the skills gap: Part 2 - Apprenticeships

This week is National Apprenticeship week and with that in mind, I thought I would do a part two of closing the skills gap.

The government is imposing an apprenticeship levy from April 2017 something that is likely to have an impact on how employers view the viability of apprenticeships. However, should this affect how many apprenticeships are available going forward and will this be off putting to employers previously offering or considering the idea of offering apprenticeships?

In short, ideally not. From April 2017, employers whose payroll exceeds £3m, will pay a levy of 0.5% of their payroll on anything over the £3m. So what is the reality? In the main, for those with a payroll under £3m nothing will change but for companies that exceed this figure, the reality is they may reduce the number of apprenticeships they offer. Seen as a "payroll tax" arguments against the levy are mainly to do with the fact that this will increase business costs. However, it can be seen as a positive as discussed by the Association of Colleges that it will help to reverse a 20 year decline in employer spending on training, will be more effective than voluntary initiatives in that period and will, as a result, secure benefits for individuals and employers. The levy is part of a larger set of reforms designed to narrow the 20% productivity gap between the UK and other advanced countries

Its an interesting idea and as I have mentioned before, the ever growing skills gap means training is needed more than ever before in the Construction industry. Perhaps being "forced" is the best way to really address a problem that most within construction are concerned about but few are making any real progress with. It needs to be a two pronged attack though. Whether there are a lot of apprenticeships available doesn't matter if people do not know that they are available. Promotion of careers and higher education options within schools is key. Schools and employers need to work together to inspire and engage with students to educate them on the opportunities available to them and the careers in construction that are available. Where construction is concerned this engagement needs to be equal for both male and female students as research shows that this is not currently the case.

Apprenticeships are a fantastic way to learn a new skill, begin a career and earn whilst doing so. Organisations such as K10 not only help people get apprenticeships but social responsibility is high on their agenda. Of apprentices on site 15% are women, 12% are ex-offenders, 73% are 18-24 years old, 10% have a disability and 84% were previously unemployed. With a combination of up-skilling people and filling the skills gap, by encouraging more people to take up an apprenticeship we will be able to take steps to fill the 182,000 construction jobs currently available.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Women in Construction Awards 2017

Last Wednesday 1st March was the 2017 Women in Construction awards in Manchester Deansgate Hilton. Now in its 11th year, it was a chance for the construction industry to celebrate the achievements of the women working within it with a number of categories representing the different professions and trades.

With awards covering QS of the year, Rising Star, Engineer of the year, tradeswoman of the year and many more, we were able to meet outstanding women working hard all over the country within the Construction industry. The guest speaker was Debra Searle MBE, an inspiring woman who rowed across the Atlantic solo.

After a delicious dinner, the awards began, NAWIC had finalists in 3 categories - Rebecca Hartshorn  and Tanja Smith in Outstanding Woman in Construction, with Tanja winning, Katie Shepherd winning Mentor of the year and I was a finalist for the Rising start over 25 award.

With a range of judges from all over the industry including Bridget Bartlett, deputy chief executive at CIOB,  Professor Chris Gorse, director of the Leeds Sustainability Institute, head of the Centre for the Built Environment and professor of construction and project management at Leeds Beckett University, Lucile Kamar, equalities manager, RICS, Jane Nelson, executive director, Mears,  Emma Richman, director of assets at Bury Six Town Housing, board member of Procure Plus and chair of the audit committee and Christine Townley, ambassador, Construction Youth Trust there was a wealth of knowledge and experience on the panel. Each judge presented a video praising the strengths of the winners, demonstrating why they had won.

The awards support Construction Youth Trust and raised over £2000 for this worthy cause.