On Wednesday 28th June, the Digital By Default group met to explore Pathways into Digital Construction. The group were delighted to be joined by James Franklin and Sam Almond from Kier and Andy Adams from T3 Training and Development Ltd.
The session focused on apprenticeships and explored how this route can support newcomers to the industry and thereby tackle the current UK skills shortage within construction.
Andy Adams, MD of T3 Training & Development Ltd; Kier’s training partner for the Digital Construction Apprenticeship
UK Skills Shortage
Due to the current skills shortage within construction, it’s imperative that we support newcomers into the industry and begin to fill gaps in skilled labour.
Part of the problem is that there is little understanding, within schools, about construction and the possible career opportunities available. We need to dispel the vision of construction as merely a trade industry and support educators in their understanding of the wider opportunities so that they can, in turn, better support students with their career options.
What is the Digital Engineering Technician Apprenticeship?
- BTEC Level 3 in Construction and Built Environment. This also enables the apprentice to accrue UCAS points to use if they choose to go on to university.
- NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Built Environment Design which is generally assessed in the workplace.
- Job Specific Skills, Knowledge and Behaviours which are assessed and must be met before going on to the final exam.
- Optional specialist training i.e., BIM, BIM authoring, surveying, etc. Partnering with industry experts enables the delivery of specialist learning and support of learners when gaining on the job skills.
- To complete this apprenticeship, trainees must sit an end point exam.
- This level 3 qualification enables progression to level 4 and on to level 6, though level 4 can be skipped for those who are showing aptitude and capability.
How Can T3 Training and Development Support Your Business and Apprentice?
T3 Training tailor apprenticeship programmes to suit both the business and the employee. Training is developed to meet organisations’ digital strategy and business needs and can be adapted alongside software providers to minimise pressure on mentors. With the current skills shortage in mind, T3 Training are able to help companies identify gaps in the existing workforce and develop training to upskill through apprenticeships. They will also support with recruitment to find the right candidates.
James Franklin, Digital Construction Lead at Kier Strategic Projects
Kier’s Apprenticeship Offering
When Kier secured the PTEP bid and began working on the HMP Five Wells project, they identified a set of KPIs, a number of which related to the use of apprentices.
This kick-started Kier’s drive to provide opportunities for apprentices within their programme and eventually became the Digitial Engineering Technician apprenticeship that they offer today.
This apprenticeship is open to all ages and provides benefits which enable the apprentices to work, learn and earn e.g., salary, car allowances, formal & on-the-job training and access to a mentor.
The scheme had its first cohort in April 2018 and has since been adapted to iron out any challenges faced in the initial roll-out.
- Fine-tuning of the end point assessment process to ensure there is no confusion over the requirements and enable a streamlined procedure.
- Next steps beyond the end of the apprenticeship have been established in order to support apprentices with their next career moves.
- COVID-19 presented difficulties in supporting apprentices remotely and meant a lack of on-the-job experience.
Kier are pleased that the majority of their apprentices have remained in the industry, and they aim to try and keep more within the company from their next cohort, which they are now looking to take on.
Next Steps for Kier
- New apprenticeship cohort to start on 3rd September.
- Ex-offender to be offered the apprenticeship in support of Kier’s social value pledge to upskill/re-skill prison leavers.
Sam Almond, Senior Digital Construction Coordinator for Kier’s Strategic Projects and previous Kier apprentice
What are the benefits of an apprenticeship?
Working directly with technology
On the job experience
Sam is now in his 5th year at Kier and is working towards the role of Digital Construction Manager. The apprenticeship he completed gave him the opportunity to become part of the team at Kier, even before he’d qualified, and meant that he was fully integrated upon the completion of the programme.
CITB also offer support to apprenticeships in the form of their Construction Skills Levy which provides grants, as well as further incentives upon completion of the course. They also have a New Entrants Support Team to support the apprenticeship journey of both the apprentice and employer.
Is there an appetite for those already in construction to learn digital skills through an apprenticeship?
The wage can be a barrier to this as an apprentice’s salary will be less that someone who is already established in their role. However, the Digital Engineering Technician Apprenticeship is open to all ages so could be used by someone looking to upskill their digital skills.
Has the Skills Shortage Always Been a Problem?
It has been a problem for decades but is getting worse, especially with the need for new digital skills, which are essential to delivering modern projects. However, this does not just affect newcomers to the industry, we also need to ensure we upskill current staff. The Building Safety Act is a huge catalyst for developing digital skills due to the introduction of a golden thread of information. This can’t be achieved without the necessary digital know-how.
Will This Cause a Scramble for Digital Skills?
Yes, these skills will be in high demand, which will cause organisations to seek to provide their own training. They will be looking to the likes of Kier and T3 to see how it’s done and support them in employing their own opportunities.