A leading North Wales civil engineering firm is tackling the skills shortage head on after its first batch of general construction operatives (GCOs) graduated.
Jones Bros Civil Engineering UK, which has run apprenticeship schemes for more than 30 years, identified a decrease in workers with expertise in skills including drainage and concreting.
To combat this, the company launched a GCO apprenticeship programme in November 2015. And the first six youngsters have successfully completed the course and are now working across the UK on Jones Bros sites.
They will bolster the number of workers at the company trained in road infrastructure skills, such as drainage, kerbing and manhole construction.
To prepare for the new course, Jones Bros upgraded its in-house training centre to include an area for excavating and locating underground services, and provision for working on different road surfaces.
The group also achieved their blue ‘Skilled Worker’ CSCS (Construction Skills Certification Scheme) card and a red CPCS (Construction Plant Competence Scheme) card for each category of plant.
Jones Bros’ training manager Richard Owen said: “It was an important step for Jones Bros to launch the GCO apprenticeship scheme.
“With the contracts we are currently winning and the projects coming up, this group will play a vital role in delivering a high-quality finish.
“The apprentices have also earned plant tickets as we try and achieve a diverse workforce, as well as one which is home-grown.
“Having the skills in-house for services such as drainage allows Jones Bros to present a better package when tendering for work.
“I’ve been in training for more than 25 years and I’ve never seen a programme like this. When we interview the candidates, it’s not just for an apprenticeship, but for a job as well. They’re really getting two chances with us – firstly to gain new skills, and then to get a job afterwards, which you just don’t get with other apprenticeship programmes.”
The youngsters completed more than 500 hours of off-the-job guided learning at Jones Bros’ dedicated training centre.
The apprentices have learnt about drainage installation, laying kerbs and channels and calculating quantities for construction, as well as training on plant including forward tipping dump trucks and ride-on rollers. Participants also learnt about construction site health, safety and welfare and putting civil engineering technology into practice.
Highways and infrastructure construction is an area of expertise for Jones Bros, which is working on the A487 Caernarfon to Bontnewydd Bypass in a joint venture with Balfour Beatty.
The GCO training ran alongside the firm’s long-standing plant operative scheme.
Award-winning civil engineer Jones Bros has recruited almost 60 apprentices in the past two years – a record for the growing family firm.
Apprentices from across the UK have been employed by Jones Bros – all getting the opportunity to gain valuable experience on a range of prestigious, multi-million pound projects.
Managing director John Dielhof said: “We’ve invested heavily in our apprenticeship programme in recent years. This has been in an effort to bring through a committed and highly skilled workforce, which is crucial to our plans for future growth.”
Richard added: “We believe that they are joining us because they foresee a long-term career with the company when they complete their apprenticeship programme.”
Jones Bros’ training department was shortlisted in the Outstanding Training Partner category in the Construction Industry Training Board’s (CITB) 2015 Pride of Construction awards, having won the prize the previous year.
Founded in the 1950s, Jones Bros employs approximately 350 people. It operates across the UK in sectors including construction of waste management facilities, highways and renewable energy projects such as wind farms.