Civil engineering contractor Bam Nuttall is making sure its next generation of engineers and quantity surveyors hits the ground running. Report by Paul Thompson.
Taking pride in training makes sense for everyone involved. Making sure a training programme dovetails perfectly with both the requirements of a business and the requirements of an individual can bring enormous benefit to those involved. Investing in new people at the beginning of their careers is the best way to bring well trained, knowledgeable and talented individuals into the industry. It’s good for the development of the individual and it’s good for businesses and its good the future of the civil engineering sector.
Contractor Bam Nuttall certainly sees the benefit of a tie-in with a training and education supplier. It has been working alongside Stephenson College in Leicestershire to help deliver its bespoke “Advance Apprenticeships” scheme since the two teamed up in 2010.
In the intervening years, staff at the contractor and the college have worked together to help develop a block release course programme that better reflects Bam Nuttall’s requirements while still ensuring it retains the core subjects that will enable students to graduate with their hard earned HNDs.
Now though, with the help of the ICE, the two are working to provide a scheme that will not only see Bam Nuttall staff trained to its own exacting standards but also prepare them to qualify as technician members of the Institution.
Under the ICE’s “Embedded Technician Scheme” students continue with their course while being prepared for their relevant professional qualifications. The work involved in gaining those qualifications is no longer an additional task to be undertaken on completion of the course.
Under the plan, students are given guidance on what might crop up during their professional review.
“The embedment means there is no add-on,” explains Stephenson College civil engineering lecturer Matthew Newman. “The students will also be given the chance to practice their professional reviews. They will still have to face the ICE interview panel and it’s not a given they will pass that.”
Rachel Nixon has just started her career with Bam Nuttall. She has just gone through her first 13-week block release at Stephenson College and is focused on her goal of gaining professional qualifications as a quantity surveyor.
Like the rest of the first year apprentices, Nixon spent the first few weeks on general civil engineering, then moved onto subjects specifically focused on providing the skills she will need to be successful in her chosen path.
“Gaining membership of Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors would be great. It’s something I really want to achieve,” she says.
“Getting a professional qualification at the end of the course will be a great boost to my career.”
The college is in its first year of offering fully embedded schemes but already Newman is convinced that the move will prove of immense benefit to prospective technicians.
He claims that all parties involved in the process stand to gain.
And while the benefits for the student and employer are glaringly obvious its takes a little more to see the benefits for the college and the ICE.
If Stephenson College staff are solely focused on delivering the requirements for the 100 or so apprentices that Bam Nuttall has going through the system, doesn’t that mean the college is in danger of becoming a Bam Nuttall academy? Not so says college principal Nigel Leigh.
“It works fantastically for us. As a college we are encouraged to provide courses for apprentices, particularly those that deliver professional qualifications,” he says.
“The embedment scheme and our relationship with Bam Nuttall is perfectly aligned with what we as an educational establishment need to achieve”.
And for the ICE the move is compelling too. With the scheme helping to trim time from the technician membership process, there are opportunities to increase the number of technicians it boasts as members while at the same time making it a little easier for ICE regional staff to keep monitoring and supporting the students through to their interview with the ICE panel.
More professionally qualified technicians is good not just for the employer but also for the ICE and the wider civil engineering industry.
In fact, such is the level of benefit for both Bam Nuttall and the college that they have started to roll out the embedment scheme for its quantity surveyors.
Working under a similar tie-in to that of the ICE technician membership, it is hoping to offer aspiring quantity surveyors a shot at membership of the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors.
The contractor has already recruited its first batch of QSs ready to take that leap (See box).
For Conal Bevan the focus is on garnering more and more relevant experience on site and backing it up with hard work in the lecture theatre.
He has already completed two years on Bam Nuttall’s apprenticeship programme, gaining his BTec National Diploma while working on one of the country’s largest rail infrastructure projects, the Edinburgh-Glasgow Improvement Programme.
He is now into the first block of the HND course with the ICE technician embedment.
For Bevan, the attraction of getting to his professional review as quickly as possible is one of the biggest benefits of the embedded technician scheme.
He is also aware that he isn’t taking on massive student loans to get himself through college.
“It is better for us. All the technical demands of the ICE is submitted with the coursework,” he says. “It just becomes part of the course rather than something extra, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
“I feel lucky that I have been given the opportunity. Most of my friends from home are at university getting into huge debt. I get paid to be here and further my career,” he says.
Bam Nuttall apprenticeship and higher education manager Ceri Mercer works closely with the team at Stephenson College to make sure the courses that have been tailored specifically
to help meet its requirements for apprentices continue to do just that.
The fact that she is a governor at the college underlines just how important that close relationship is to both parties.
“This programme has superseded degree sponsorship. This is the preferred model for us now. If you want to be an engineer with us this is the way we would like you to go about it,” she says.
By working closely with the college, Bam Nuttall has helped make sure the course delivers “work ready” apprentices that can contribute effectively to the site team from day one.
This is an important point, not just for the contractor but also for the education provider. Particularly when it has a Studio School - a new breed of schools which offer more practical and work based learning for 14-19 year olds - attached to it.
“That people are productive from their first day on site supports Bam Nuttall but is also important for us,” says Leigh.
“People say that school or college leavers are not employable but here we are delivering qualified, experienced and employed staff. The idea that employers will get more out of the apprentices is very good for us.
“We now have a route where pupils can enter Stephenson College through our Studio School at 14 and leave six years later with first rate experience and qualifications with a professional qualification too.
It is a fantastic opportunity,”