Apprenticeships build skills for the future in Derbyshire

Apprenticeships have always been a great way to learn new skills and develop the next generation of talent we need to keep our local construction industry going. Over the years, apprenticeships have changed to offer a fantastic way to build a whole range of careers in the industry. With opportunities to gain qualifications all the way from entry to degree level, apprenticeships are creating skilled joiners, electricians, surveyors, site managers and much more. So how are local developers and young people making the most apprenticeships?
With a shortage of construction skills and an ageing workforce, developing talent is vitally important to companies who want to ensure they have a bright future.

That is the case for local Construction Company, Robert Woodhead Limited, who have been working in partnership with Chesterfield College for many years to develop their workforce and inspire the next generation. Their successful apprenticeship scheme, which is designed to develop professional and technical services talent into the business, has continued throughout the pandemic to ensure they have the skills they need for recovery.

Two of their apprentices, James Bracegirdle, 19 and Harvey Gregory, 18, successfully completed their technical apprenticeships in August 2020 and are now developing their careers as a Trainee Quantity Surveyor and a Trainee Site Manager. The two year apprenticeship gave them a unique insight into the industry and helped them to explore where they wanted to develop their careers. Both of them say their apprenticeship has given them a fantastic advantage and feel the mix of work-based learning and college tuition was the perfect way to get the skills they needed. We found out more about their experiences.


James said;
“I spent about 6 months in sixth form but decided it wasn’t for me so I started to look at different career options. This apprenticeship gave me the opportunity to try different things across the business. I wasn’t sat in a classroom anymore, but I was still learning by doing real tasks and projects in the business. I spent one day a week in college and I soon realised this work experience was getting me ahead in my studies because I had so much practical experience to relate it to.

After studying for my level 3 at college I have been able to springboard into a university degree. I am now studying for a level 6 Quantity Surveyor degree apprenticeship at Sheffield Hallam University.

The first year of my apprenticeship taught me how to work in an office environment and how to conduct myself as an industry professional. The second year was about applying myself to the job. I spent 6 months working in Site Management and 6 months in Quantity Surveying. As part of this, I spent time on sites across the region and was really immersed in everything that the roles entailed. I am now leaps and bounds ahead with my knowledge of the industry and it is helping me so much with my degree.

When I dropped out of sixth form I was worried that I would be behind but actually I feel like my apprenticeship has got me further ahead in my career now. It really gave me the best of both worlds I was in a working environment learning on the job but one day a week I was back at college with a bunch of friends, and I had money in my back pocket too.

A good apprenticeship with a good company can transform your idea of career. I’d recommend anyone who doesn’t want to spend 5 days a week in a classroom to explore what is out there for them.”


Harvey told us;
“In the first year, I spent 10 weeks in each area of the business to see how support services keep the business running. We were given responsibility very early on and the work we did made a difference, which I really enjoyed. We were supported all the way with mentors and line managers and we were given tasks to complete by ourselves. In the second year, we chose two areas we wanted to spend more time in. I spent six months on site management and six months in project management. You get a real in depth look at what that the role involves and you are given a lot more responsibility.

I learnt a lot when I was out on site and I had chance to see a build from start to finish because I saw all elements of it develop from working in the different departments.

My apprenticeship has helped me massively when it comes to building my career. The knowledge I have gained, I couldn’t have got anywhere else. The active experience of seeing it and doing it is so valuable. I had the chance to experience lots of different aspects of the business and it really helped me to work out what I want to do.

I am only 18 and now I am learning about Site Management on the new Northern Gateway Enterprise Centre in Chesterfield which is unusual for someone my age. I wouldn’t be in this position without my apprenticeship and everyone at Woodhead who have supported me along the way.
College has played a massive part too. You need the experience and the learning side of things too. Without support of tutors I wouldn’t have been able to get the qualification I needed. They have been a massive help to make sure I could complete my apprenticeship in the pandemic.

I am a practical person so being able to do a job at the same time as learning has been perfect for me. I would recommend an apprenticeship every day of the week. There is no better route into a job like this.”


Matt Bust, Business Support Manager at Robert Woodhead said;
“Working with local colleges is vital for our business to ensure we build the future workforce we need. We work in partnership with Chesterfield College and invest time to ensure students get employer interaction and are excited about a future in construction as well as create apprenticeship opportunities. I am a former student there and I know how important the work experience and support I received was so I like to replicate that.

Working with the college, we have designed our apprenticeship programme to be the best balance of experience and learning. Harvey and James are great examples of how successful apprenticeships can be and I look forward to seeing them have a bright future.”
Gavin Varley, director of engineering and construction at Chesterfield College said;

“Construction skills are in demand and there is a real commitment from many employers in our area to support the next generation of the construction industry workforce. It is a fantastic time for school leavers, or anyone keen to develop or change career, to find out what apprenticeships can offer. Working in partnership with employers like Robert Woodhead, we are determined to equip the people of Derbyshire to build their careers and their futures.”