11th January 2017

South Devon College students have learnt first-hand about the wide range of careers in one of the fastest growing industries in the country.

A hundred young people aged 16-18 studying a range of subjects at South Devon College spoke to professionals working with some of thebiggest names in construction.

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The students also met some of the people who helped build The South Devon College Energy Centre in Paignton.
The event was organised as part of the Step In Step Up project which aims to attract people into the expanding construction sector in the South West, which is delivering major projects such as the new towns of Cranbrook and Sherford, as well as the forthcoming Hinkley Point C power station.

Kier Construction was instrumental in founding Step In Step Up, along with the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), and Kier’s Alastair Mullen said: “All the studies point to a looming skills shortage in construction, and we see Step In Step Up as a way to recruit high-quality people into the industry in the face of this issue.
“As one of the top-five construction firms nationally we are glad to be able to lead this initiative. The collaboration of leading construction-based businesses has been very positive.

“The world of work is changing and Step In Step Up is helping people already in employment move into an industry which offers a wide range of well-paid careers. It’s great to be able to offer people these opportunities.”
Kier have enjoyed a long-standing relationship with South Devon College and the event at the Energy Centre was very useful in being able to show the students that there is a range of routes to start a rewarding career, and that there are no ‘glass ceilings’ in construction.”

Adele Dawson, Assistant Principal at the college, said: “It has been calculated that construction in the South West will create around 6,500 jobs a year until the end of the decade, and more than half of these roles will be senior, professional and office based.

“We want to raise awareness of the great opportunities that are available in this sector, and to dispel the impression that construction is limited to trades such as bricklaying and plumbing.
“Step In Step Up will help people in other jobs who are looking for a change use their existing skills to find a new career in the region’s booming construction sector.
“We’re very grateful to all the construction professionals who continue to give invaluable advice and provide placements.”

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Among the speakers was Andrew Ash, a Project Manager with Kier Construction, who worked on the South Devon College Energy Centre. He said: “Some of the highlights of my career to date would be the hospitals I have done. I have built a building that will help heal people, and I have built educational hospitals to teach doctors to then go out into the real world. I like building schools and other educational facilities, I really like working in those environments.”

Sarah Lockhart is one of more than 30 people who have already been helped by Step In Step Up to find a new job, placement or training since it launched in July 2016. Sarah works at the JobCentre Plus in Exeter Street, Plymouth, and after 11 years was looking for a change.

She heard about Step In Step Up through the Plymouth Construction Job Shop in Mayflower Street and decided to see what was available.

Now Sarah will be starting with Kier Construction in January, training as an estimator. She said: “The Step In Step Up programme will look at transferrable skills in your current job role to find the most suited position within the construction sector. The programme will guide and support you to choose the right career path.

“I’ll be spending two days a week on site, one day distance learning, and two days a week getting work experience with the team of estimators, building up my knowledge base and understanding, so I’ll know how the process works from start to finish.

“The Step In Step Up programme is offering an exciting opportunity for people with little or no construction experience to start a new career.”

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Advice from the professionals:

Amy Walton, Urban Designer with LHC’s Exeter Studio:

“I would recommend construction as a career because it is really exciting to work in an industry that influences the environment that people live in and can impact on people’s lives. My advice to people starting a career in construction would be to do as much research as possible, do as much work experience as possible, figure out exactly what you want to do, so you can do something you really enjoy and love doing day to day.”

Andrew Ash, Project Manager with Kier Construction:

“Get out there and get some work experience! Get practical experience at various different levels, and get your knowledge and skill sets up to a decent level. Work experience will help you find a part of the construction industry – which is quite large – which you really enjoy.”

Daniel Hale, Site Manager with Mi-space, part of the Midas Group:

“There is a massive need for people to come into the construction industry in the South West. My advice to people looking for a career in construction would be to be really proactive and tenacious in trying to get an opportunity in the first instance. Work experienceis a key element people need to get to gain the skills and experience they can use to get a paid role in the future.”

Doug Lloyd, Pre-Construction Commercial Manager, Kier Construction:
“I had a sports and exercise science degree but I wanted to change my career path. I signed myself up to a degree conversion course which was for two years, distance learning, to change to a quantity surveying degree. I then sent out a CV and covering letter to various construction companies in the South West and I was lucky that Kier gave me the opportunity to join them.”

Kat Standley-From, Assistant Site Manager, Kier Construction:

“I’d really recommend construction, there’s a wide field of opportunities and careers to be found, for both men and women. Women are coming in to construction more and more, not just in desk jobs but also out on-site. Work experience is a great way for anyone to start, it gets you contacts on site, it puts you in touch with people and it’s a great way to see if you have a feel for the industry.”

Kate Ellis, Publicity and Corporate Responsibility Manager, Kier Construction:

“I came in to the industry through a slightly more scenic route than perhaps other people did! There are so many career opportunities within the industry supporting construction, such as marketing and human resources, and that’s the route that I’ve taken. I’m extremely proud to be in the construction industry: when you look at what our site teams deliver it really is exceptional. My one piece of advice to people thinking of a career in construction would be to be open-minded, try a few different things, get out there and do work experience.”

Tasmine Graffy, Architectural Technologist, LHC Plymouth Studio:

“If you are thinking of a career in construction I believe it is important to do something you enjoy. If you are unsure about what you may enjoy or which field to go into then get some work experience in a variety of fields to narrow it down. There are many roles within the industry you may have not even heard of yet. I see no reason why women shouldn’t play an active role within the construction industry. Don’t let your sex or stereotypes choose your career, choose something you will enjoy being a part of.”

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For more information on our Construction courses and apprenticeships, please contact our Helpzone team on 08000 380 123 or enquiries@southdevon.ac.uk.

Alternatively, come along to our next Open Evening on Thursday 26th January 2017 from 5pm-8pm or our Apprenticeship Information session on Monday 13th February 2017 at 9am and 1pm at our Vantage Point Campus, Long Road, Paignton, TQ4 7EJ. Visit our website for more information today.

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