Work experience leads to career in construction for school-leaver

By Anita Jaynes on 14 March, 2016

Seventeen-year-old Tom Sewell’s dream of becoming a construction professional looks set to come true. The youngster from Peatmoor, has just landed a place on regional construction company Beard’s top industry training programme in Swindon. Tom’s acceptance onto the scheme follows a year-long work experience placement, resulting in Tom being offered a job with the firm.

Tom joined Beard after leaving Lydiard Park Academy at age 16. He recently started a full-time construction traineeship with Beard and will be financially supported by the firm throughout his education as part of his sponsorship package. Tom is currently attending Swindon College one day a week alongside his training to complete his second year of studying for a Construction in Built Environment BTECH Level 3 qualification. While continuing to work for Beard, he will then go on to achieve his HNC and complete his training by achieving a professional.

Paid work experience

Tom first contacted Beard after finishing his GCSE’s in 2014 and was invited for an interview with the company’s chairman, Alan Beard, who keeps a close eye on all trainees. One of the top regional construction companies in the South West, Beard has a long-standing training programme for school-leavers and graduates which combines practical on-the-job construction training with academic studies. The company, which retains the vast majority of its trainees, is keen to encourage more young people to pursue careers in construction through apprenticeships and training schemes to help address the ageing workforce and the chronic skills shortage in the industry.

“I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go in after leaving school but I thought construction seemed interesting and I already had two contacts in the industry and one of them worked for Beard,” explains Tom. “My first week of work experience gave me an idea of the different career paths you can follow with Beard, from ground to management level, and the support provided to help trainees progress within the company. I was also keen on the idea of earning money whilst learning a range of skills, which you don’t often get with work experience or training schemes. It was at this point that I decided construction was a career I wanted to pursue and that Beard was the company to help me do it.”

Beard was keen to enrol Tom onto their 2014 training programme but a candidate had already been selected by the time he applied. Instead it was arranged that he would start his BTEC and continue in a paid work experience role working with the firm’s project team on a new Holy Cross Primary School building in Queens Drive, Swindon until he could reapply the following year.

“It was great to be given the hands-on opportunity to work on the construction of a new building at Holy Cross School,” said Tom. “I started in October 2014 and worked on the site one day a week whilst attending college full-time, which gave me a really good understanding of how a site is run to support my studies. I did a bit of everything including basic site checks, scaffold checks, and snagging, which is basically seeing if anything needs rectifying or if there are any damages that need fixing. I pretty much saw the project through from beginning to end in July 2015. During this time I was involved in everything from laying the foundations to putting the timber frame up which was a really rewarding experience. Holy Cross was a definite highlight for me as I learned so much.”

Training programme

Since successfully applying and starting the training programme with Beard in September 2015, Tom has been working with the estimating team where he has learnt how to send out enquiries and use the specialist software the job requires along with other important skills. He is now looking forward to starting the next rotation with the surveying team

“I’m really grateful to have been given the opportunity to work in a variety of different disciplines within Beard which will help me decide which direction I want to head in, but I’d say at the moment I’m definitely leaning towards becoming a quantity surveyor,” said Tom. “I like the fact that it’s more site based than the role of an estimator and you are able to get involved with projects from start to finish which after working at Holy Cross, I find very appealing. I’m looking forward to learning the skills I’ll need during the next few months, including procurement, sending tenders, negotiation work and costing works packages.”

Tom is thrilled to have been sponsored by Beard and in five years’ time is hoping to be well on his way to becoming a qualified professional.

“Many of my friends went off to college when I first joined Beard and will be looking to go to university soon and I expect a lot of them will come out the other side with debt, little to no work experience and no guaranteed job,” he said. “I however have been lucky enough to enjoy earning whilst learning in an industry I love. Beard is paying for my college and university education and I have a guaranteed job with the company when I qualify at the end!” Tom is also looking forward to playing his part in tackling the skills shortage in the construction industry when he qualifies and would strongly encourage more young people to consider a construction career.

“The lack of young people choosing to go into construction is already posing a major problem for the industry,” he said. “Successful, established firms like Beard offer great paid work experience programmes, which is how I got my foot in the door. “Everyone is very friendly here and always willing to provide help and assistance if I need it.”

Tom added: “Beard likes to grow its own pool of talented young people so it tends to recruit its trainees. What’s more the company gives you plenty of opportunities to progress and move up the ranks, and many chances to try your hand at a variety of job roles to help you decide which one you like the most. Best of all, Beard sponsors a lot of its trainees to help them achieve their career goals with the firm, so I would strongly urge those who aren’t sure of the best direction to go in career-wise to look into the opportunities that Beard and other construction companies have to offer because they have everything to gain and nothing to lose!”

Pictured above: Tom Sewell