By Natasha Heritage, Employability Trainer, JTL – Birmingham Training Centre
A Traineeship is still a relatively new approach by government to raise the employability skills of many young people leaving schools, or currently registered as not in employment, education or training (NEET). Young people aged 16-18 complete a programme that combines work preparation and associated training alongside four weeks of work experience with an employer.
It’s a new week and I have a new class of learners sitting in front of me. I have previously interviewed them so I know that they all have their own individual stories, how they have become NEET and are now looking for an organisation who can provide them with the opportunity to succeed. At JTL this is what we pride ourselves on, providing young people with an opportunity for them to really see the realities of the construction industry, helping them progress into young adults ready for the world of employment.
We have always been passionate about providing opportunities to young people who need that extra support to become an apprentice and the results we achieve can be quite stunning. With the help of sector employers in the Birmingham area, JTL began the first of its programmes at our Birmingham Training Centre a couple of years ago. Eight trainees were recruited and at the midpoint of the programme all remained on course to complete the study, which showed their readiness to be included on a full apprenticeship with its associated potential employment opportunities.
Many employers have been relatively quick to see the benefits in participating, as this provides a good way of trialling the enthusiasm and commitment of a young person to do well in one of the trades, and at a subsequent time, to become a major asset to a business whilst completing an apprenticeship scheme.
They can see this as an opportunity for young people to gain valuable work experience in a valuable trade, whilst gaining life skills that could help them progress onto an apprenticeship. This in turn will benefit employers by creating more job-ready apprentices.
Participation in Traineeships is at no financial cost to employers, but the young people do need a level of supervision to ensure that their experience is engaging and provides the necessary experience that will improve their prospects of work – either within building services engineering or through an alternative career route.
We are keen to encourage more employers to become involved in Traineeships. We have expanded the provision to our Southern region and my colleague Stella Olufemi, has made impressive progress in that part of the country with the programme. The work already completed in Birmingham shows the validity of the concept and the value it has in recruiting more good people into the sector.
We have seen success with the programme where larger employers utilise the Traineeship programme as an extended interview opportunity.
We worked closely with Interserve on one of our projects. They were looking to employ a number of apprentices but instead of the usual interview approach utilised the Traineeship programme to have a good look at the recruited trainees to get a feel for their aptitude, their likely skills levels and importantly their employability skills such as time keeping and their ability to turn up on site in all weathers. They were looking for capable young people, who were willing to put themselves out for their employer, happy to go that extra mile. It was really useful, in their view, to be able to stand back and watch the young people putting in a shift each day, watching their levels of willingness to learn, to see their levels of self-confidence grow day to day, becoming ever more employable as the programme progressed.
A similar programme took place in Coventry on the site of the University of Warwick. In conjunction with construction giant Willmott Dixon, ten trainees between the ages of sixteen and eighteen – all NEETS – all of whom had their own story of why they were NEET and how they were trying to take the right step in the right direction with this opportunity. This was probably amongst the most challenging groups I have worked with in my time with JTL. To get ten young men, not used to the disciplined environment that a major construction site must be, was an interesting situation to be in.
At their induction course by management trainee Louis Wykes, I watched them having their palm and finger prints taken so they could access the site, to take possession of their PPE – boots, high vis jackets, safety hard hats and gloves – it was clear from the very different reactions from each of them that this was going to be a very stretching kind of challenge to anything they had experienced before.
It was interesting to see them begin to adjust to their surroundings – to find their level – to begin to bond with other members of the group. The youngsters were allocated to sub-contractors on the site, including bricklayers, roofing contractors, and mechanical and electrical engineers. These were their mentors, as well as being responsible for ensuring they behaved on site and put into action some of the life skills they were being taught.
It was hard work for everyone concerned. The Traineeship programme did fit neatly into both Willmott Dixon and JTL’s corporate and social responsibility (CSR) policies – but it was far more important than that to us both. By attempting to help local young people who had been written off by so many, to discover that there are opportunities out there that are worth taking and the very real success stories – as these young trainees received their certificates from the Site Manager and listened to the warm but challenging words he had to say to them – made the three months of the programme worthwhile for us all.
I am now coming to the end of a training period with my current group of trainees. Two trainees out of the group, who had been provided with a Traineeship opportunity with the Wates Group, one of the largest construction companies in the UK, received excellent feedback from their time with Wates and that they are now being actively encouraged to apply via the Wates recruitment process for an apprenticeship opportunity. Watching their reaction to the news and hearing that their hard work had paid off, reminded me once again, why I commit to this role as passionately as I do. JTL is changing the lives of young people who have not necessarily had the traditional educational route and are looking for a provider to give them the opportunity that many may not offer them. I am very proud to see what JTL has achieved with the Traineeship programme and look forward to it progressing into a nationwide programme in the future and to JTL being the provider of choice for Traineeships in our sector.