• 02 August 2019
  • News, People,

With so much more competition in the market place what is it about construction that continues to attract young people to the industry?

Tolent’s Teesside office has seen three consecutive successful rotations of year-out students from Teesside University come through the business and with plans to strengthen the links with other local colleges and universities; we sat down with the latest Tolent recruits to find out more about why construction was the choice for them.  

Joe joined Tolent on his year out in 2017/2018, followed by Callum in 2018/2019 and Elliott is just about to start his placement in August this year.

Having all grown up in Teesside, all three had a keen interest from a young age in understanding more about how the large structures they saw around them came together.

Joe: For me it was football stadiums. I’d always travel around the country with my Dad to see Middlesbrough play and from as far back as I can remember I was always fascinated by the stadiums.

Callum: I remember going to London when I was younger and just looking up and around me thinking ‘wow!’ There are so many impressive structures around the world and I have always wanted to be a part of that.

Elliott: Mine was more of a local connection after following the development of the Veritcal Pier in Redcar coming together. As I live in the area, it was always something you’d walk past and being able to watch the whole structure come together over time, it definitely sparked some interest into thinking ‘I wonder if I could do that?’

Having gone down similar paths leading to studying a Civil Engineering degree at Teesside University, we asked Jenyfer Owen, Employability and Placements Officer at the university, what more can employers like Tolent be doing to continue encouraging young people to pursue a career in the industry?

“We do invite a range of employers from across different sectors to provide career talks but often we don’t get the numbers of students attending that we should,” commented Jen.

“I think some students start to think about graduate roles from the beginning of their third year of study. I think if we can encourage students to be more strategic minded when they join us in first year and if we can highlight more examples of students like Joe, Callum and Elliott, who are successfully securing placements and jobs with national companies like Tolent, that’s going to go far in what students can come to expect here.”

Tolent on Teesside had always promoted the employment of young people, straight from school, but following the recession the company began to notice a skills gap emerging within the business - an issue that resonated across the industry - as more colleagues progressed with their careers and not enough trainee and apprentice positions were being filled.  

Having built a reputation within the civil engineering sector across the Teesside and wider regions, the team decided to reach out to the local university to understand about what more they could do to address this skills shortage.

“We actually took on our first-year out student, Michael Piggford, back in 2012 as a trial run to see how this would fit with the business,” said contracts manager Paul Hankin.

“Around the same time we were providing work experience and placements to schools, colleges and other training organisations and whilst we were happy to do this, there was a significant difference in the level of knowledge and skill that students like Michael had.

“After a couple of years of working through these different routes, we re-approached Teesside University in 2017 and have been working with them ever since. Michael is still with the business today and we were delighted to offer Joe a site engineer job earlier this year.”

So what are the benefits of completing the year-out placement?

Callum: My confidence has grown massively over the last year. Not only feeling more confident when you’re out on site and meeting new people, but more confidence to know that when I graduate, I’m potentially going to have a much better advantage on gaining full-time employment over someone who doesn’t have that element of practical experience. Which has also helped to reduce a bit of stress! 

Joe: The degree on its own is still an important element where we’re able to gain an overview of all the different aspects of civil engineering but clearly it can’t teach us everything. What you get from the placement year is the experience and knowledge of the people you work with onsite which is something I valued during my placement and I know had a direct contribution in helping me to graduate with a First Class Honours degree.

And what do you think you can do to help encourage more people, including more women, into the industry?

Callum: I sit on the Institute of Civil Engineering (ICE) student panel and this is something that we discuss a lot. Most would agree that we need to get into schools and try and have some influence at a much younger age which is something I’ve done quite a few times now. Once you can get someone excited and interested about the basics of engineering and how they can see elements of it in everything around them, I think that’s where we can spark that early interest in both men and women.  

Joe: I agree, I think we could do more to promote the variety of roles across the industry too, within schools, but do more to reach more parents too, as they’re huge influencers for their children.

Jenyfer: I agree that role models are a big thing too. At Teesside University we have a lot of strong female leads within our engineering and construction departments which I think can be very encouraging to girls coming in to study or explore what a career in construction could look like