As we commence National Apprenticeship Week 2024, there is a fresh approach to apprenticeships being taken by leaders in industry and education, aimed at attracting the upcoming generation of construction workers. While construction and education bodies have made a concerted effort to address the skills shortage in recent years, Esh Group and the North East Institute of Technology (NEIoT) are optimistic that their new approach will bear fruit throughout 2024 and beyond.
Since its establishment, NEIoT has initiated transformational changes in the region. Esh Group, as the lead construction partner, joined in 2020, and as National Apprenticeship Week marks its 17th year this week, Esh’s 24 apprentices are currently studying NEIoT courses, delivered by partner institutions New College Durham and Middlesbrough College. Esh aims to achieve success through an innovative approach that combines industry and curriculum.
Through its adaptive approach to the curriculum, NEIoT is enabling employers to shape the curriculum by liaising regularly with educators to review plans and promote innovative teaching, a shift that provides a major opportunity for firms looking to recruit the workforce of the future. Corporate affairs director for Esh, Darush Dodds, said that NEIoT puts businesses at the forefront of the technical curriculum’s development and delivery, which gives Esh a direct input into the courses that its apprentices enroll for, while allowing businesses to provide feedback on the curriculum’s effectiveness.
For example, Cole Wilson, a 19-year-old trainee engineer from Birtley, was able to secure an apprenticeship in Esh Group’s housing infrastructure division, Lumsden & Carroll, after benefiting from a six-week work placement. He is presently studying a Level 4 HNC apprenticeship in construction engineering through NEIoT and recommends that other students take advantage of their opportunities as well.
Dodds is one of the sectoral leads who participate in bi-monthly meetings with NEIoT director Sharon Grant and representatives from education partners. These sessions, accompanied by sub-group meetings, drive progress on critical topics, such as retrofitting, digital skills, and modern construction techniques (MMC).
By collaborating with NEIoT, Esh Group is shaping learners who are necessary for the industry and the larger community to forge ahead. Although the construction industry may be thought of as cold, wet, and dirty, there is a plethora of outstanding job opportunities available to those who are interested. Apprenticeships offer the ideal platform for Generation Z to help shape the future, both for themselves and for the sector.
NEIoT’s group meetings provide updates on current programmes, round tables on emerging themes, and expert guest speakers who offer valuable insights in their fields of expertise to aid change, be it from a construction, advanced manufacturing, business, or IT perspective. Dodds believes that these candid and timely discussions will improve the landscape for the better. The collaboration takes a two-way approach where the educators listen to Esh’s requirements, and in return, Esh listens to the educators’ needs.
Dodds noted that aside from the construction industry, many colleges and universities are struggling to recruit lecturers, which presents an opportunity for Esh. They plan to share some exciting updates later this year, following some detailed modelling.