Hastings Pier

Jo McLaughlan, 16.07.2015
Offering local young people apprenticeships and placements
Hastings Pier Charity is dedicated to the restoration and ongoing maintenance of Hastings Pier. We are two years into a five-year project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and have so far hosted six apprentices and 10 work placements on the construction site.

Two of the apprentices are employed directly by the charity. The other four are employed through Timber Craft UK, one of our sub-contractors, and spend two days a week at college and three days working with the firm. When they finish their two year carpentry apprenticeship they will be full-time employees of Timber Craft.

As an organisation we were committed to offering local young people apprenticeships. But we have a small construction team consisting of a project manager and project engineer, and they needed additional skills and equipment in order to offer the apprentices the training they needed to develop appropriate skills.

Our main steel contractor was told about the apprentices before it was awarded the contract, as it was essential to have the support of all the contractors involved in our project.

The two apprentices we directly employ work with the contractor on site to learn the skills they need to maintain the pier. They also spend two days a week at the local college studying performing engineering operations and GCSE English and maths, developing a wider range of skills for future employability.

At the end of the two-year apprenticeship there will be two maintenance engineer roles on the pier that they can apply for.

As well as learning college-based skills, the apprentices learn on-site construction methods and have been trained in rope access as well as many other skills, which has enabled them to do practical work with the contractors.

We found it difficult to find the correct college course for the role we needed and as a result they have been doing a lot of additional training on site. We have had some attendance problems with one apprentice that we are still resolving.

Alongside our apprenticeships, we also run one of the largest work placement programme on a construction site in the UK. This has not been easy to set up and could not have been done without the support of the director of Timber Craft UK, which supported us with knowledge of the construction industry, training needs and provided staff to be site supervisors.

We also worked closely with Construction Industry Training Board to insure we had all the risk assessments and method statements in place. It is important to note that for anyone to spend time on a construction site they need a CSCS card.

The test and card are not expensive, the training per person is £250 with the overall cost for one work placement including both training and time from site staff being about £600.

Two of our work placement students have gone on to get apprenticeships while two others have gone to university, so it has been extremely rewarding to see these young people progress and develop.

Jo McLaughlan is the education and volunteer coordinator at Hastings Pier Charity