As one of the largest employers in the area, we are passionate about our duty to help the wider community address these social and employment issues. We recognise that the area that we are based in faces many challenges before we have even begun to address the construction skills shortage.
From speaking with education professionals in the local area, we have learnt that, on occasion, they have had to teach students about basic life skills such as buying a train ticket, what to wear for an interview, and how to plan a route from Clacton to Colchester, with many students opting to turn down placements or job opportunities because of a fear of travelling outside the town, or because neither parent in their household works and they therefore lack the motivation or confidence to pursue work.
We currently have two apprentices, seven individuals on further education courses and eight staff on higher education courses. Our training policy is built upon a three-tier training matrix, which covers mandatory training for all site staff (including first aid, fire marshall, etc), specific training (such as SMSTS, scaffolding, etc) and further job progression training (including higher education and NVQ level 6 site management).
Phelan engages in numerous activities locally to help address the nationwide skills shortage, from inspiring primary school children to consider the industry as a career to actively supporting our local further education providers so they can continue to provide invaluable training for our own staff. We engage with young people of all ages to support them on their path to a future career, including attending school assemblies, speaking with children on site when working at schools, and organising a site visit for a local year 3 class to attend the extension and refurbishment of the Mercury Theatre in Colchester and its roman remains.
Moving ahead to secondary school education, Phelan take an even more hands-on approach in ensuring that children are given the opportunity to learn about the diverse career opportunities available within the industry, as well as beginning to learn the skills that would lead into a professional apprenticeship.
Phelan are co-sponsors of the Class of Your Own ‘Design, Engineer, Construct!’ qualification at Clacton Coastal Academy school, which provides students with accredited key stage 3, 4 and 5 qualifications in the subject and covers all aspects of planning and designing a sustainable building.
Along with our financial contribution paying for course materials, we more importantly dedicate our time to supporting the staff and pupils in achieving the best possible grades, including attending interview workshop days to offer feedback and advice for students, and offering work placement and apprenticeship opportunities for the students.
Furthermore, we have a profile on the Icanbea… website to guide students throughout the region into a construction career.
Colchester Institute is our local further education provider for STEM-based courses and the provider we use for the development of many of our own staff. In 2018, we committed £25,000 to turning the Clacton campus into a bespoke ‘Construction Skills Centre’ – a partnership spanning the next five years.
As part of this, we attend all the college’s careers events and Essex Construction Skills Board meetings, plus offer apprenticeship opportunities where possible. The new centre, which enables unemployed adults to find a path into skilled employment or affords unskilled workers an opportunity to up-skill, was launched in March 2019 and in the first few months, the centre reached over 100 applicants for the trade courses that they offer.
This commitment to training and staff development has been recognised with various industry awards, including being shortlisted as a 2019 finalist for the SECBE Constructing Excellence ‘People Development’ award, winning the NFB’s ‘Employer of the Year’ award in 2018, being highly commended for the NFB’s ‘Commitment to Training’ award 2016 and being recognised as a finalist in the LCA ‘Apprenticeship Scheme of the Year’ 2016.
In 2018, we joined the 5% club; a pledge that means 5% of our workforce will consist of apprentices and graduates. On all long term (12 month +) projects, Phelan look to create two trainee positions within the project’s local community to promote the industry and provide much needed jobs, as well as developing the next generation of construction professionals.
There is a nationwide shortage of skilled construction workers, which Phelan recognises can only be solved through the commitment of those working within the industry. As such, we have resolved to take on new apprentices each year, with this pledge being honoured through our membership of the 5% club.
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