To find out more about the different career paths in construction, we approached Bath College where their new state-of-the-art Somer Construction Centre will be opening in September. And when asked for a focus on one of the students, they introduced us to a female stone mason who had the fantastic opportunity to work on a £19 million building project for her work experience! Read more …

What sort of people are best suited to a career in construction?

We encourage anyone who has an interest in construction, in any shape or form, to get in touch as construction covers a wide variety of different interests, and the skills you develop really depend on the area you’re interested in.

There are technical subjects, like quantity surveying and architecture, and also craft subjects which are more practical, like carpentry. It doesn’t matter who you are, regardless of age and gender there is something for everyone.

What different construction and engineering courses are available at Bath College?

We have nearly 600 students studying construction and engineering courses including refrigeration and air conditioning, plumbing, electrical installation, engineering, motor vehicle, and construction design and management, stonemasonry, brickwork and painting and decorating.

Each one of these courses breaks down into Level 1, 2, 3 and higher.

From September, all of these courses will be taught at our Somer Construction Centre which is a brand-new purpose-built facility at our Somer Valley Campus. It aims to become a centre of excellence for the construction industry and will have all of our construction trades under one roof.

What choice of routes are open to me if I leave school after my GCSEs?

There are different levels of entry to the courses depending on your situation, your experience in the subject and your qualifications.

If you have GCSEs at grade C (equivalent) or better, you can enrol on a Level 2* course after undertaking an initial assessment and discussion with the relevant tutor. Anything less than a C (equivalent) means you’ll most likely be enrolling on a Level 1 course. But again, you will need to have a discussion with the relevant tutor.

* If it’s a practical course, you still need to learn the craft and – whilst someone with good grades at GCSE could study on a technical course – we wouldn’t recommend that they begin with a Level 3 carpentry course, because you need to learn the practical skills first.

And you could also consider an apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships give students the chance to learn on the job as they’re able to apply what they’ve learnt in the classroom in their day to day job, helping to cement their knowledge. They give young people a foot in the door, as they’re able to contribute to their company as well as learn on the job.

More employers are engaging with colleges, thanks to the growth of apprenticeships, and even upskilling people who are already in a company. They want apprentices to train for particular roles which they need to fill in their business, so it may be that apprentices are offered the chance of a permanent role (or further training) after successfully completing their programme.

Notably, we’re expanding our higher apprenticeship provision at the moment – because we’re getting a bigger demand for higher education apprenticeships from employers. In some subjects, such as engineering, it’s therefore possible to study all the way from a lower level through to degree level.

What’s the choice if I stay at sixth form and continue my A-levels?

Applying for construction after A-levels impacts on the level of course you can do, whether or not you can get funding and the type of course you could take.

If you want to study a practical, crafts-based course after A-levels, you will most likely have to start from Level 1. But if you choose a technical subject, your A-levels may help with the learning, especially good English and maths skills.

Another thing to remember is funding. If you’ve already studied for A-levels, you may not be able to get funding for another Level 3 course, so have a chat with your careers adviser first so you understand any implications.

And whilst students with A-levels can study a practical course, they should really be looking at a HNC in construction or building services engineering, because this is a clear progression route.

What’s the main difference between choosing school and college?

There are similarities in terms of academic work, but the main differences are in terms of the specialist facilities and staffing for construction courses at college.

Certainly, there are elements of academic work as well as the practical aspects of a vocational course at college. So, even if you do a Level 1 course in carpentry, for example, you’re still required to know the theory and to have the knowledge.

And some schools do have good electrical and carpentry workshops. However, it is unlikely that many will have all the specialist equipment and workshops so it would be difficult for a school to teach stonemasonry, or air conditioning and refrigeration for example.

At Bath College, we also pride ourselves in having the expertise and experience in teaching these vocational subjects and that will help to increase your knowledge as well as your practical skills, getting you ready for a career in whatever field you wish to go into.

Can you tell us about one of your students and their experiences?

Morwenna had the chance to work on a £19 million building project for her work experience on the Level 2 stonemasonry course at Bath college. She was with Midas Group at Saw Close in Bath, the location for a new casino, hotel and restaurant complex. Whilst there, she worked alongside other masons who were cladding the building with Bath Stone and gained some useful industry tips.

Midas Group were so impressed with her work that they offered her a job as an apprentice. However, Morwenna had already been approached by another company and will start with them on a level 3 apprenticeship in September.

Here’s what Morwenna said: “Having completed this work experience, I definitely felt more confident. I’ve worked in retail at 16 and decided I wanted to do something different, but I didn’t know what I wanted. I was looking through college prospectuses and the stonemasonry courses stood out and now I’m really glad I chose to pursue it as a trade. Being a female stonemason isn’t something you think about as a career choice, but there are a few women on the course here at college.”

And finally …

Students should grasp any opportunity they get to work in a construction environment – for example, in a carpentry workshop, in an electrical workshop – anything they can do over the holidays. That will expose them to what the subject is about, and we can do the rest here at college.

Once they have experienced what the subject is about, they will be much better informed about their career options. Knowing about career choices and options available is crucial for young people and they need to look at work experience and carry out as much research into what they’re interested in.

Construction is a huge area. It’s not just about hard hats, building sites and labourers – it’s everything to do with buildings at all stages, being able to understand building architecture and design and the materials used as well as all aspects of health and safety and much more.

All of that requires knowledge and experience. If they experience that first-hand, they will save themselves time and money in the future. Rather than going from one job to another, they will have an idea of what they want to do.

Thank you to Morwenna and to Bath College. @BathCollege @BathCollFutures

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