Delivered by national housebuilder Persimmon in partnership with Gateshead College, the Combat to Construction programme retrains ex-military personnel for a career in the sector. Based in locations around the country, they gain a wide range of skills in bricklaying and joinery and work on live housing developments across the UK, eventually obtaining a full apprenticeship at NVQ Level 2 at the end of their studies.
The scheme has been hailed as a major success, providing jobs for ex-military personnel, boosting the efficiency and productivity of companies and helping the construction industry to tackle key skills shortages.
Now apprentice joiner Chris Gow has become the 100th trainee to graduate from the programme, which was extended to take in a new cohort of trainees last month.
The 29-year-old, who works as an apprentice joiner on Persimmon’s prestigious Ladgate Woods development in Middlesbrough, previously spent four-and-a-half-years as a mortar operator for the 40th regiment Royal Artillery before becoming a weapon-locating radar specialist as part of the fifth regiment.
He comments: “I chose Combat to Construction as I had some experience in the building industry before joining The Army. I wanted to train to be a joiner after I left school and this scheme has given me the opportunity to pursue that dream while earning a proper wage.”
Former infantry soldier Connor Wilson has also completed the programme, which has helped him launch a career as an apprentice joiner at the Whitewater Glade housing development in Stockton-on-Tees.
Chris and Connor are among dozens of people who have benefited from the training provided by Combat to Construction, which can lead to a range of exciting careers in project management, sales, health and safety, quality control, quantity surveying, bricklaying and joinery.
Trainees travel from all over the country for an intensive seven-week programme at Gateshead College, where they acquire technical expertise, as well as key skills in literacy, numeracy and IT. They also work towards obtaining their Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) accreditation, which provides proof that individuals working on construction sites have the required training and qualifications for the type of work they carry out.
The trainees then gain valuable experience of working on live projects on various Persimmon sites around the country. The 18-month programme is tailored specifically to the business needs of the company, which is recognised as one of the premier housebuilders in the UK.
Alan Hopwood, director of Persimmon Homes Teesside, reflects: “It’s great to be working with Gateshead College on this programme, which is designed to help us acquire skills that can make us even more efficient, productive and competitive. Trainees like Chris and
Connor are an invaluable resource as we aim to grow our business and maintain our reputation as a renowned national housebuilder.
“We take pride in our workforce and are always on the lookout for new talent. We welcome applications in all fields of discipline from bricklaying to forklift driving. Previously we used subcontractors to carry out certain work, but now we’re benefiting from bringing these skills in-house.
“It is well known that the construction industry suffers from major skills shortages, but through Combat to Construction, Persimmon and Gateshead College are playing a major role in tackling these issues.”
Gateshead College is also supporting Persimmon on its Upskill to Construction programme, which aims to be a gateway into the construction industry for those looking to change career or enhance the building skills they already possess.
Ivan Jepson, director of business development at Gateshead College, says: “We’re delighted to support Persimmon’s Combat to Construction and Upskill to Construction programmes.
“As well as helping ex-military personnel and other professionals forge a worthwhile career in the industry, the programmes also develop a pipeline of skilled talent that will enable Persimmon to remain competitive going forward. They are also helping the company to anticipate and address skills gaps in the workforce.
“The fact that 100 apprentices have now completed Combat to Construction and are now employed by Persimmon is a fantastic endorsement of what we’re trying to achieve. We work with employers to design or adapt training provision to meet their specific business needs and this allows us to produce a pool of work-ready talent with the skills and aptitudes required.”
Persimmon is a strong advocate of the movement to use the skills of ex-forces men and women, with between 12,000 and 15,000 leaving the armed services each year.
These people bring many benefits to the company, including a strong work ethic and an ability to learn and adapt quickly to the construction environment. Some of the Combat to Construction trainees have used the scheme to fast-track their career beyond the building site and into site management.
Persimmon and Gateshead College have continued to expand the scale and scope of the programme, which will become even more valuable as demand for new homes across the country increases. With this growth, there will be a greater need for bricklayers, joiners, forklift drivers, site managers and other skilled tradespeople who can help build a sustainable future for the UK construction industry.