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CITB launches Brickwork Academy to tackle national skills shortage

The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) has launched an innovative new Brickwork Academy to help address a national shortage of bricklayers.

Working in partnership with colleges and employers, CITB is funding this pilot project to ‘fast-track’ the training of much-needed new entrants, getting more of those on college courses in brickwork to actually join the industry. 

Currently only a quarter of students on construction-related courses move directly into a construction job, and nearly six in ten (59%) of those who unsuccessfully applied for construction jobs since finishing their course said it was because they lacked the work experience that employers wanted.

Meanwhile, 61% of small and medium-sized construction employers are struggling to recruit bricklayers according to Federation of Master Builders research

Brickwork Academy is working with students at Wirral Metropolitan College and Hugh Baird College in the Liverpool city region, and Warwickshire College in the West Midlands, to give them the work experience they need to take up jobs in construction.

The students have been chosen in partnership with participating local employers and will complete an additional seven weeks of practical skills training at their college, along with work experience days on local construction sites. 

After this they will spend the next 24 weeks working onsite with their employer, to achieve their NVQ Level 2 brickwork qualification. In addition to developing their practical trowel skills, the extra college training supports students to be better prepared for the construction sector, covering topics such as employability skills and self-employment. 

In Liverpool, the participants will undertake their work experience and additional pre-site training together at the Knowledge Quad, Morgan Sindall’s multi-purpose learning space located on site at the city’s landmark Paddington Village construction project. Following this, the group will undertake their 24-week placements with three joining projects the company is delivering for Liverpool John Moores University and Merseyside Police. 

CITB will evaluate the pilot project and if successful, it could be rolled out to more colleges across the country, and to other construction trades. 

Research by CITB has shown that 70% of construction employers regard work experience as of significant value when recruiting, twice as many as those who value academic qualifications.

However, they also find 29% of college graduates poorly prepared for work, due in part to a lack of practical, on-site experience.

Wirral Met student Matthew Wong (pictured above left) has progressed from the introduction to the construction stage of the course. He said: “I’ve learned how to build walls, correct use of the trowel, and the mixing of materials. Brickwork Academy involves working for an employer as a trainee bricklayer on their site for nearly six months and this includes getting a salary and doing my NVQ. After this on-site experience I’ll be much more likely to stay in a job as a bricklayer.” 

Sue Higginson, Principal of Wirral Metropolitan College, said: “We have recently invested £12 million in building a state of the art Construction Campus that, of course, includes a department that specialises in brickwork and the built environment. Within this campus we have a pool of talented students looking to further their career in the industry.  We are delighted to be working with CITB to create pathways to employment and this project will make a real difference to employers and their prospective employees, namely our talented students.”

Steve Radley, CITB Strategy and Policy Director, said: “We know that construction employers are struggling to recruit skilled bricklayers, while too many students on construction-related courses lack the onsite experience and employability skills that will get them their first job in construction. We’re really encouraged by the enthusiasm shown by the colleges and employers involved in the Brickwork Academy, We hope that its results will make the case for expanding the Academy approach with more employers and into other trades, to join together with other CITB initiatives to help more learners become site-ready for employment.” 

Barry Roberts, Morgan Sindall Construction’s Managing Director for the North West, said: “In order to successfully tackle the skills gap and develop the workforce our industry needs to thrive in the decades to come, innovative approaches to education and learning are needed. Brickwork Academy represents just that, and also mirrors the work we’ve undertaken in recent years in focusing on the importance of enabling new entrants into the industry to gain onsite experience early in their training. We’re very proud to be working with CIB on this pilot, and look forward to welcoming the students to our sites across Merseyside over the next few months.”

Pictured above l-r: Matthew Wong; Ian Colligan (Cara Group Brickwork); Kian Lewis (Brickwork Academy student); Richard Potts (Morgan Sindall)

Find out more about Brickwork Academy.