The UK’s newest skills academy finally opens its doors

A pioneering civil engineering skills academy unlike anything else in the North East has been officially opened in Hartlepool.

The new skills academy from Seymour Civil Engineering and principal partners Hartlepool College of Further Education and Hartlepool Borough Council will provide certified qualifications to future and current civil engineers both locally and nationally with the aim of helping to close the ever-growing skills gap in the industry.

According to the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) the industry needs to recruit in excess of 31,000 people every year to 2022, while research by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills suggests more than 750,000 people will leave the sector between 2014 and 2024 and there are additional fears that Brexit could result in the loss of a further 100,000-200,000 personnel.

Graham McPhail, CITB Head of Education and Training, said: “With the industry expected to grow in the coming years amid a skills shortage and the workforce implications of Brexit, it’s essential to give workers the skills they need to become qualified, to not only get on with their careers but also benefit the industry as a whole.”

The new academy from Seymour Civil Engineering will incorporate a wide and diverse training and skills curriculum including house building, surveying, planning, street works, plant & machinery training, horticulture, landscaping, tree surgery and general construction operative apprenticeships.

The site is nestled in 11 acres of land off Brenda Road in Hartlepool and has been made possible thanks to Hartlepool Borough Council making the land available for lease. It is the culmination of three years of planning by the multi award-winning firm.

Niall Crosby, Academy Manager, said: “The initial vision of the academy was to help to go some way to closing the skills gap. Seymour wants to be able to offer quality learning for a range of age groups.

“The academy provides a one-stop-shop for employers to support their training needs across all aspects of construction and civil engineering. Being a large local employer, our offering will be dynamic, evolving in response to market needs and employers’ requirements – ensuring highly trained staff have perfected their trades away from commercial pressures but in a real-life simulated environment. The opportunities that this academy brings are endless.

“To name just a few of the programmes initially on offer include: General Construction Operatives Apprenticeships, NPORS & CPSCS plant training and Certification, confined space training, safe lifting operations, slinging/signalling, protection of underground services, short duration courses including abrasive wheels, manual handling, asbestos awareness, working at height, health and safety – IOSH, NEBOSH and Water Hygiene.

Niall added: “Hartlepool Borough Council has been instrumental in us realising our ambitious plan to provide a new state-of-the-art training academy. We are truly delighted that we have been able to create such an offering in our hometown and we hope it will go some way to putting the skills of the North-East on the map.”

Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, Chair of Hartlepool Borough Council’s Regeneration Services Committee, said: “The council is absolutely committed to doing all it can to ensure that our young people get the best start in their careers, so we were delighted to play a key role in the creation of this training academy.

“There is a shortage of skilled young people in the construction and civil engineering sectors in Hartlepool and thee wider Tees Valley and this ambitious partnership between the Council, Seymour Civil Engineering and Hartlepool College of Further Education will help to close that gap.

“This academy will provide both employment and training for employment, not only for Hartlepool but for the North-East. Working together, we are laying the foundations for many young careers in an industry which is vital to the financial prosperity of the town, the region and the country.”

For more information on courses available at the new skills academy please contact training@seymourcivil.co.uk

From Apprentice to Civil Engineer

 

 

North East based Seymour Civil Engineering believes in the important role apprenticeships play in bringing the next generation of engineers into its industry.

This is represented by Lewis Hunt, a Site Engineer and Management Trainee Apprentice at Seymour and the journey he is undertaking as an apprentice with the company.

Lewis, 19, from Hartlepool, is one of Seymour’s youngest civil engineers and began his career by helping in the offices, before working on site where he is taking on many roles and responsibilities.

Lewis is currently working as an on-site engineer on the Port of Tyne Container Improvement scheme. His responsibilities include planning, co-ordinating and supervising all technical aspects of the works from the outset. As the project progresses Lewis also ensures that all fabrications are structurally sound.

Other responsibilities include setting out, solving technical issues, providing advice, preparing reports and working closely with the site manager to ensure the project is delivered safely.

Lewis has been an apprentice at Seymour for three years and chose to undertake civil engineering as his focus two years ago after spending the first year benefiting from spending time within each department, providing him with a unique understanding of all business functions. This gave Lewis the commercial advantage of undertaking his role on site.

Alongside the apprenticeship, Lewis is undertaking an HNC Civil Engineering degree at Teesside University, fully funded by Seymour.

Lewis said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity and it shows that apprenticeships in this industry give you the best start.

“I believe I’m in this role because of the effort I put in. I try my absolute best and learn so much from the many different roles I have on site.

“I started my apprenticeship at Hartlepool College of Further Education, which was brilliant, working in the Seymour offices, then moved to working outside where I have learnt so much already and has helped me with my academic studies.”

Research from the Institute of Civil Engineers found that due to an ageing workforce, the UK could face a ‘skills cliff edge’; with around 30% of workers aged over 50 and 700,000 set to retire in the next ten years.

A recent Government study as part of the Year of Engineering Campaign stated that for the engineering sector to gain enough candidates to reduce the skills shortage, they would need around 186,000 skilled recruits each year until 2024.

According to a research brief from the House of Commons, of the 59,000 apprenticeship starts in 2017/18, 16% were in engineering.

Lewis is a CITB Ambassador and has previously spent time attending schools and colleges to share his experiences.

Lewis said: “Apprenticeships are brilliant to introduce to young people as there is an aging work force so there will always be jobs for people to get into.”

Lewis has been involved in a wide variety of engineering projects in Northallerton, Harrogate, Newcastle and Hartlepool so far throughout his time at Seymour.

He continued: “Seymour really invest in you and provide you with a wide range of work and projects – what you need for professional development and gaining valuable experience.”

Throughout his apprenticeship, Lewis attends university once a week and aims to finish his course next year. Completing the degree will ensure that he will be fully qualified by 20 years old in his field.

Lewis added: “I aim to work at Seymour while completing my degree.

“After that, I’m interested in seeking a Chartership in Civil Engineering.

“I hope to make my way up the ladder at Seymour. I am passionate about civil engineering and it is something I’ll look to do for the rest of my career.”

Engineering the North East

Kevin Byrne, Managing Director of Seymour Civil Engineering, believes that the North East is the definitive birthplace of modern engineering and it is here that engineering has made the most impact. Not just on our region but on the world itself. We spoke to Kevin about what makes the North East of England such an important area and what we can do to ensure that heritage continues.

“The North East’s background and history in engineering is probably one of the strongest in the world. Some of the finest engineers came from the North East; including Sir William Armstrong, inventor of high-pressure hydraulic machinery who revolutionised the design of guns and George Stephenson, the ‘Father of Railroads’.

The region has a massive history of civil, mechanical and electrical engineering. It was synonymous with quality shipbuilding and the steel industry, and saw the design, build and export of some of the world’s most famous bridges, the most famous being Sydney Harbour Bridge. You can see the massive input this region has had on the world’s infrastructure.

Engineering has had an undeniable effect on the North East, but most people who have never visited the North East won’t understand that.

It is a fabulous place with a terrific infrastructure that is still being improved upon. The quality of life and work/life balance in the region is fantastic. We have a beautiful countryside and it is serviced by a massive and robust infrastructure.

Seymour has recently been involved in a major engineering project in the region which aims to assist the local economy, the A19 Silverlink Roundabout. A triple decker roundabout that will aim to alleviate a lot of congestion and allow the ports to take in a lot more traffic. Seymour’s role was to install £8m highway and kerb drainage on the scheme on behalf of Sisk Lagan.

This major infrastructure change will allow companies in the North to distribute their goods and services more freely.

The future is bright for the region. There is fabulous technology being developed in the North East and we’re now looking at developing advanced manufacturing and turning Teesport, the third largest port in the UK, into a freeport.

The North East is, as far as I’m concerned, looking at a renaissance and to avoid using the B word. I believe the region can be a beneficiary of the outcome of our exit from Europe as we will be able to compete and bring engineering and manufacturing home.

We as a civil engineering company, can see that a lot of manufacturing organisations will need infrastructure, buildings, premises and laydown areas and we see this as a market trend that we’re ready to take advantage of.

Engineering has had an impact on the economy of the region, as it has an effect on any economy around the world.

A lot of people don’t know what engineering is or even notice it until something goes wrong and it’s often overlooked as everyone takes it for granted.

I’ve worked in the North East since 1989, after moving across from Lancashire, and the one piece of engineering in the region I regularly go to is the Millennium Bridge in Gateshead which crosses the Tyne. It’s a fantastic piece of engineering which was cleverly done. It was manufactured five or six miles down the river and put into place by possibly the largest lifting barge in the world back then.

From a purely engineering point of view, that was a very prestige job. It’s iconic of the Newcastle/Gateshead connection and over the years I’ve seen Newcastle grow from being a working dock to what it is now, a centre of excellence in terms of working space, leisure and housing.

The region has had some terrific pieces of engineering, another of which would be the Angel of the North, built in Hartlepool, but I think there are also quite a few jobs which are not quite as iconic but are just as vital.

These are the sea defence jobs and sewage facilities that are often buried, and no one would even know they are there. However, without them there would be flood issues and less than attractive places to live.

So, while I am aware of those jobs – the public wouldn’t necessarily give them a second thought.

I often point out the sports fields in the region to people and they ask me why I find them fascinating. For me, it’s not the fields themselves but rather what’s under them which is absolutely terrific.

Hidden engineering is all around us and without it, things would be very different indeed.

The North East has obviously experienced somewhat of a decline over recent years which has resulted in workers re-educating themselves. The region is now a hotbed of cutting edge advanced manufacturing, technology and offshore wind farming. I honestly believe that the North East is far better than what the ratings would ever give it.

The fact that we have five top class universities with world leading programmes means we have a massive education facility for the development of people in the North East, that is second to none.

I believe post Brexit, as manufacturing comes back, the North East will develop technologies that will be exportable throughout the world and I honestly believe that, whilst there is always room for improvement, the North East is a lot more advanced than what we give ourselves credit for.

Ideally, we need to move people away from large metropolitan areas – in order to do that we need to improve transport links and we have to get the lifestyle facilities in different parts of the UK to make it desirable for commuters. That issue falls with us in the engineering sector.

The North East has always produced the best engineers in the world. We took the railways abroad, we took the canals abroad, the power stations, infrastructure, shipbuilding and bridgebuilding. We have the talent, the generations, the feedstock and the bloodline.

Let’s carry on doing what we do best.”

Is enough being done to encourage young women into engineering?

Sunday 29 June saw the return of International Women in Engineering Day. A day that celebrates the women that make a difference in the engineering sector and also highlights the challenges the industry still faces in encouraging young women into an engineering career. 

In research conducted by Subcon in early 2019, it states that 59% of businesses in the UK believed that enough was being done to encourage women into the industry. 

We spoke to two of the rising stars at Seymour Civil Engineering to get their experiences.  

Victoria Greenwell and Sarah Jopling are both Site Managers at Seymour Civil Engineering who are proud of their chosen career paths.

Victoria, 33, has been qualified for ten years and is now a Site Manager. Victoria is currently managing the £1.3m Port of Tyne Container Improvement Scheme Project.

She said: “I’m passionate about my job and I want to be the best.

 “When I was young there were no females in the industry that I looked up to as it was a male dominated industry. Female role models are so important to the coming generation of female workers. Ideally we need to bring women at an early stage of their careers and let them work their way to senior positions to gain valuable experience. Then they can help influence the next generation. 

“For me it’s happening. I just think it will take time. Starting them young with apprenticeship schemes is a brilliant way to begin but it won’t happen overnight. 

“It’s only been the last couple of years where the industry has been marketed more for women but it is a gradual transition – getting more women into the industry will take time. You never know in 5 year’s time I may be sitting here with a lot more women beside me in senior positions.

Sarah, 28, Site Manager on Sunderland’s Hylton Castle project onbehalf of William Birch, said:  “It’s important to attract and retain the next generation of young women in the sector. It should be a normal thing to see a mixture of male and female workers on a construction site. 

“More and more people like myself, setting examples within senior roles are helping to change that perception within the industry.

“Seymour has done a lot to encourage women into the industry. I’ve been given opportunities from Kevin Byrne, our MD, to join institutes such as NAWIC and I know we invest a lot of time and effort into STEM activities at local schools and colleges. 

“That doesn’t mean that more can’t be done to attract women at a younger age. It’s important for women like myself to be put in front of young women to show them this is what an engineer is in the 21st century. 

“Schools and businesses have a responsibility to show children the options they have when they are young.

“It’s a massive choice that will affect the rest of your life and I feel children need to have more information. The industry needs to support schools with this and get to women when they’re younger to show them the possibilities of what they can become.” 

According to UK Engineering, only 12.37% of all engineers in the UK are women but when asked, 46.4% of girls 11-14 would consider a career in engineering. This shows that the interest from younger women is there. It’s up to education and the industry to work together to ensure the enthusiasm of these young people grows. 

For more information about Seymour Civil Engineering go to: www.seymourcec.co.uk or for more information on International Women in Engineering Day go to:www.inwed.org.uk 

Veterans’ skills set them ahead says leading civil engineer boss Kevin Byrne

Those who have sacrificed the most are being supported by a leading civil engineering firm.

Seymour Civil Engineering is one of the latest companies to sign up to the Armed Forces Covenant, a promise to acknowledge and understand those who serve or who have served in the armed forces.

Managing Director Kevin Byrne believes that ex service personnel have special skills and attributes that set them ahead in the work place – and estimates around 10% of the current Seymour workforce have served.

He said: “At Seymour, we have always employed a high proportion of ex services personnel and have always actively recruited service leavers as we recognise the benefits of the transferrable skills, which provide us with a highly trained workforce and disciplined calibre of personnel.

“We are thrilled that signing the Armed Forces Covenant has formalised publicly our support and pride that we hold for our Armed Forces.”

The covenant focuses on helping members of the Armed Forces community and their families have the same access to government and commercial services and products as any other citizen.

Support is provided in a number of areas including education, family well-being, having a home, access to healthcare, starting a new career and more.

Kevin has now encouraged other business leaders from across the UK to join the charge and back the pledge.

He added: “By engaging further with the Armed Forces we believe this will strengthen the skill sets of our workforce, whilst providing opportunities to veterans to give back in some small way to the sacrifices they have made for our country.”

Government Minister for Defence People and Veterans Tobias Ellwood said: “Signing the Armed Forces Covenant is a fantastic way to show support for our former and current service men and women, as well as their families.”

For more information about signing the covenant visit: https://www.armedforcescovenant.gov.uk/

North East firm lays the foundations for innovative UK housing project

The modern building techniques of a leading civil engineering firm are set to be part of one of the UK’s most innovative house building projects.   

With demand for homes outstripping supply in the UK, experts have praised the possibilities that factory-built modular housing could deliver for the UK’s housing needs. 

Home Group, one of the UK’s largest providers of high quality housing, health and social care, has set up Gateshead Innovation Village, a truly unique project to assess the effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability of modern methods of construction (MMC). 

Home Group is working with five MMC manufacturers to develop 35 modular houses and panelised houses as well as six traditional, bricks and mortar homes, which will be assessed by specialists for a range of issues over a year long period.  

Seymour Civil Engineering is contracted by leading regeneration specialist, ENGIE who is delivering the project on behalf of Group, to look after the roads, sewers and foundations at the site.    

The Hartlepool-based civil engineering firm has been laying the foundations at the site and is also responsible for the internal and external drainage, services and hard landscaping. 

Thomas Brown, Seymour Civil Engineering Site Manager, said: “This is the first time we have worked in this way – and it is so interesting to watch the process. The main difference is the way we lay the foundations.  

“With traditional construction, perimeter walls and load-bearing walls need deep foundations – and therefore deep excavation – to support the load of the structure.  

“However, the modular homes require shallow excavation with concrete and blockwork plinths as the weight of the property is spread across the site.” 

Due to the current housing shortage, the UK needs to build between 240,000 and 300,000 new homes annually. The industry is currently building around 190,000 houses per year due to the cost of building homes and declining number of skilled workers.   

Thomas added: “The time taken to erect a modular house is a fraction of the time it takes to construct a traditional build.   

Myself and the team have found this project fascinating and amazing to watch the homes as they are erected and complete in such a small space of time.  

“We’re all very proud to be part of this fantastic project.” 

He added: “I’m 100% certain that this is the future of housebuilding in this country.”    

Stuart Dickens, Seymour Civil Engineering Construction Director, said: “Seymour is always keen to take on board projects where the expertise and skills of our engineers will be utilised in new and innovative ways.   

“We feel that Gateshead Innovation Village does just that as well as giving us all the opportunity to be involved within the future of the house building sector.   

“It’s exciting to be involved and we look forward to seeing the first residents move into their pioneering properties.”  

Seymour Civil Engineering started on the project in June last year and the development is due for completion in May.   

The properties are manufactured in a state-of-the-art factory using the latest technologies and they will boast features such as smart controlled solar panel systems.  

Once the village is built householders will share their experiences of the housing type and technology.   

Civil engineers to complete work on £75m Highways England Silverlink project

Seymour Civil Engineering is nearing completion on its award-winning role at the North East’s first ‘super roundabout’.   

Work on the £75m Highways England Silverlink triple decker roundabout is scheduled to finish in just weeks with Hartlepool-based Seymour Civil Engineering contracted by John Sisk & Son to install £8m highway and kerb drainage.     

Seymour has been on site for 102 weeks to date and has been crowned ‘Supply Chain Partner of the Year Civils UK’ at the Sisk Supply Chain Awards for the last two years for its work on the project, with particular mention made about the quality of work and its collaborative approach.     

Ryan Browell, Contracts Manager at Seymour, said: “It’s definitely been one of the largest projects that I have been involved in throughout my career.   

“I think the main challenge has been working around traffic management. We worked collaboratively with a host of other contractors such as those looking after the piling, bridges and laying of the roads.”  

He added: “We are very pleased with the work and we know that it’s going to make a real difference on one of the UK’s primary transport corridors.”   

Seymour has installed drainage utilising the latest shaft sinking and microtunnelling techniques which has enabled continuous traffic flow on the A19.    

The four key areas of Seymour’s work involved:  

  • Main highway and land drainage  
  • Trenchless crossing undertaken by micro tunnelling techniques  
  • Sinking three shafts – the deepest being 13.5m deep  
  • Installation of combined kerb drainage  

It has also provided 24-hour on-site support.    

Health and safety on this project has been of the highest standards, working to Highways England’s ‘Raising the Bar’ standards given the nature of the location of the works and the risks involved.  

The scheme in North Tyneside, at the A19 and A1058 Coast Road junction, has been ongoing since summer 2016.  

Three layers have been created – the Coast Road on top, a junction in the middle and the A19 on the bottom.   

Once complete the project will dramatically reduce queuing time for motorists travelling along the A19 at peak times.   

Highways England has confirmed the scheme is on schedule to finish in March and the work is now entering the final stages.  

Hartlepool business champions urged to enter prestigious awards by former winners

Reigning Hartlepool Business of the Year, Seymour Civil Engineering, is helping in the search for the next business champion by becoming the main sponsors of a prestigious awards event. 

The search is once again on to find the champions of Hartlepool’s business community for the Hartlepool Business Awards in May. 

Seymour Civil Engineering lifted the Overall Business of the Year trophy last year in what was a landmark 40th year for the company. 

And the leading civils firm has recognised the ongoing importance of the awards by becoming its main sponsor. 

Kevin Byrne, Seymour Civil Engineering MD, is now leading the charge to encourage more Hartlepool businesses to enter the awards. 

He said: “Last year was such an important year for us, we completed some very significant projects for major clients and won some big national construction awards. 

“To pick up the Overall Business of the Year Award at the Hartlepool Business Awards was the cherry on the cake for us.  

“Respect in the industry is great but when it comes from your hometown business peers it feels fantastic.  

“We feel that Hartlepool Business Awards are the perfect way to come together to back business in the town and acknowledge the abundant examples of excellence.” 

Andrew Steel, Hartlepool Business Forum Leader, said: “After winning Overall Business of the Year last year it’s great to see Seymour Civil Engineering backing this annual event by becoming our main sponsor for this year. 

“Seymour is a first-class Hartlepool company with firm roots in the town, only strengthened recently with news of its new training academy which is due to get started in Brenda Road. 

“No matter how big or small we would urge Hartlepool companies to push themselves forward and enter this year. 

“We want to showcase our strong, resilient and new Hartlepool businesses.” 

Entry is free and there are 11 categories in total and the Overall Business of the Year winner attracts a £1,000 prize. 

The closing date for entries is 5pm on Friday, March 29 and firms are restricted to three entries only.  

Tickets for the awards night on Thursday, May 16 at Borough Hall – which includes a three-course dinner – are £450 for a table of 10 or  £45 each.   

To reserve tickets call (01429) 283802 or email  Cheryl.Menzies@hartlepoolfe.ac.uk. 

To enter visit: http://hartlepoolbusinessforum.co.uk/hartlepoolbusinessawards 

University VS apprenticeships: Apprentices talk about why they chose on-the-job learning over a purely academic route

Outdated misconceptions often still prevail when talking about apprenticeships.  

With new figures from UCAS showing that in England a record 38.8% of the 18-year-old population have applied to UK universities this year – it’s clear to see that academia is as popular as ever. 

But what are the alternatives?  

As National Apprenticeship Week (March 4 – 8) approaches we chat to two young apprentices at Seymour Civil Engineering who have taken a different direction and are now thriving in their chosen field of civil engineering, an industry keen for young talent to help bridge its ageing workforce.  

Here they stress the benefits of apprenticeships such as on-the-job experience, earning a good wage, avoiding debt and the potential to clinch a long-term role – all while gaining all-important academic qualifications too. 


  

Name: Luke Bell  

Age: 18  

From: Bishop Cuthbert, Hartlepool   

Apprenticeship: Management Trainee at Seymour Civil Engineering, studying for a BTEC Level 3 Construction and the Built Environment with Hartlepool College of Further Education    

“I first heard about apprenticeships through my friends and speaking to lots of employers, including Seymour, at apprenticeship evenings.    

A lot of my mates were saying that by doing an apprenticeship you get the same sort of outcome as you do at university but your course is paid for, you’re paid, you’re well looked after by your employer and you get your foot in the door of a career.    

I thought ‘I want to see if that’s for me’.    

Lots of my family have a background in construction, like my dad who is a bricklayer – so I thought I might look into civils and engineering in general and see where I can go with it.    

But I had no clue as to what engineering involved before I went into it.    

I’ve still got friends who are doing A-Levels and at the time I was thinking ‘which route do I want to go down?’    

But that was my fall-back option if I didn’t get an apprenticeship. 

I applied for a number of companies. Seymour said ‘do you want to come for a testing day?’ which included Maths, English and a few practical tests.    

I was invited to two further interviews and from there they offered me the job. I was 16.    

My family were over the moon that I had the courage to go for an interview at the age of 16 and get a job straight after school in the form of an apprenticeship – earning while I’m learning.      

The payment of an apprenticeship was definitely a draw too – it means as well as working hard I can afford to do things socially in my spare time.   

I have friends who are doing A-Levels messaging me to ask if there were any apprenticeships going! I feel as though I did make a good decision. It was hard at the time making it, but I feel as though it’s really paid off.    

I feel like I’ve really grown up – especially considering what you’re like at school with your friends. All of a sudden you’re in a work environment. I feel I’m more mature and grown up.    

I think any snobbery is carried over from years ago and people have got a perception that apprenticeships are more manual and labour intensive, but actually apprentices can be working in offices and things have changed.    

The debt that you can incur by going to university was also a big put off for me. I don’t want to be in that situation.    

I think people my age understand that apprenticeships are great but you’ve got your mum and dad in your ear saying university is more academic.  

My mum wasn’t really keen on apprenticeships at first and didn’t know much about them. 

But I think my mum is buzzing with it now – she’s really happy with the decision that I have made. 

Traditionally people once thought that earning capability could be higher if you did go to university but now I think it could be about the same in most sectors. 

Another thing to take into consideration is if after university there is a job there waiting for you. With an apprenticeship the job is there from the start.  

My favourite bits so far have been being going out on-site and getting first-hand experience – when you read it online or in a book it’s harder to understand.  

I also like that Seymour has let us try every department – so I have worked in most departments such as estimating and quantity surveying which I think is the route I want to take. 

As a trainee Quantity Surveyor I have to keep to the estimated costs of a project, price any changes to the works that weren’t priced originally and just make sure that the project runs smoothly on the financial side.      

Would I recommend an apprenticeship to my peers? Definitely.”  

Name: Klaudia Robinson  

Age: 19   

From: King Oswy, Hartlepool  

Apprenticeship: Management Trainee at Seymour Civil Engineering, studying for an HNC in Civil Engineering at Hartlepool College of Further Education 

“My sister Kensey, 20, went into an apprenticeship when she left school as a lab technician. I just knew that was the route that I wanted to follow too. It just seemed more interesting than sitting in a classroom all week.    

My mum was really happy with the decision and she thought that I would get a better understanding of the industry that I wanted to work in – and better still that I had a job as well.    

It was more when my sister did it that friends and family thought ‘that’s different’. The perception had been you go to college, you go to uni and then you get a job. 

Now the majority of my friends have apprenticeships too. One is an accountant, one works at Caterpillar, one works at a hairdressers. I think now it’s actually the more desirable route. 

I think the main attraction for me is that you’re getting paid but you’re learning as well. 

I do have friends who have gone to uni – and I know they enjoy it – but they are always worrying about money.    

You can get the education by doing an apprenticeship – I’m doing an HNC which means that if I did want to go on and do a degree that I could progress on for another year to turn my HNC into a degree.     

I was initially attracted to civil engineering after going to an open evening at Hartlepool College of Further Education and talking to the course tutor. When you think of construction you just think of bricklaying and being on-site but you don’t really think of the office-based jobs.  

When the tutor explained Quantity Surveying it really interested me.    

I want to be a Quantity Surveyor and I feel I will be in a good position to achieve this as I will have the actual on-the-job experience, which you can often miss out on at university. 

I feel like if I went to college full time I would definitely not learn as much, particularly about different sectors of the industry.    

definitely feel the apprenticeship experience has helped me to mature. 

When you get a job you have to learn fast and grow up fast. But saying that, it is still a laugh coming into work – it’s not all serious!    

If you do apply for different jobs then you have the hands on experience as well as learning about it at college.  
I feel like it makes you stand out.”  

Green light given for civil engineering training academy   

The official go-ahead has been given for a new civil engineering training academy in the North East. 

Seymour Civil Engineering’s plans for an 11-acre training facility have now been approved and its aim is to help tackle a gaping UK-wide skills shortage in the sector.

Kevin Byrne, Managing Director of the multi award-winning firm, says that the academy will impact both locally and nationally, providing qualifications to those needed to construct the nation’s future infrastructure.  

Staff will work in collaboration with Hartlepool College of Further Education to provide qualifications for construction operatives from Seymour, the College and external organisations at the Hartlepool-based academy which will replicate a fully functioning construction site. 

Kevin said: “There is a skills shortage, we’re addressing it and now that planning permission has been given we can move forward with a view to opening fully for business in time for the new academic year. 

“While the initial ambition was to train our own staff – both current and future – we realised that there is a gap in the market and we will be able to train people from other businesses as well as new entrants to the construction industry. 

“The kernel of the idea came about seven years ago when we were having difficulty accessing local training so we started to offer our own internal training with approved in-house trainers.  

“As the industry progressed – and required more skills – we wanted to offer a wider variety of training to a larger volume of people and an increased number of apprentices.” 

Civil Engineering Contractors Association members recently revealed the future supply of skilled operatives was the largest concern for firms in all parts of the UK. 

 According to the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) the construction industry needs to recruit in excess of 31,000 people every year to 2022, while research by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills suggests more than 750,000 people will leave the sector between 2014 and 2024.  

It was in 2016 Hartlepool Borough Council was approached by Seymour and the College with a view to finding a suitable site for the academy which will be located on Brenda Road. 

The academy will feature two training buildings, classrooms, welfare facilities, storage containers and toilets. Wildlife and ecological considerations will be addressed and utilised as a training resource. 

Kevin says that as well as contributing to plugging the skills gap, another major benefit of the facility is that it will provide a welcome boost to the local economy.  

He said: “We have been extremely pleased by the very positive approach of Hartlepool Borough Council councillors who see the social and economic benefit of this. 

“The more people that we can attract to the academy, the more money will be directed to the service sector in the town such as at hotels and accommodation.”

 Hartlepool College of Further Education has supported the project throughout and will be the awarding body for the academy’s qualifications including NVQs.

Andrew Steel, Assistant Principal of Hartlepool College of Further Education, said: “This is great news and a fantastic opportunity for the long-standing partnership between Hartlepool College of Further Education and Seymour Civil Engineering to deliver a unique civil engineering academy to the area.

“The academy will offer excellent training opportunities across a wide variety of civil engineering, plant and construction skills, increase apprenticeship opportunities in the Tees Valley as well as employing additional training staff to meet the anticipated demand.” 

Kevin says that training will be taken up a gear as operatives will be able to practice on a site that’s authentic, but away from commercial pressures, allowing repeat exercises until required skill levels are achieved.

He said: “We will be offering nationally recognised qualifications that will allow civil engineers to work to the very highest level – on projects such as HS2 and Thames Tideway. Civil engineers that have come through our training academy ranks will be there to help deliver the nation’s infrastructure. 

“It’s all about giving them meaningful hands on experience and confidence on a real site.  

“When we look at the demographic of the company over the next five years we are inevitably going to be losing people through retirement, people with 30 and 40 years’ experience. We do not want to lose those skills, they need to be passed on.

“This is an opportunity for genuine hands-on trainers to be able to show students the Seymour way as well as deliver those vocational skills.”