The Minster College Training Initiative

The Minster College training initiative was set up in September 2008 and had two principal objectives: to extend access to training opportunities that directly meet construction employers’ business needs, creating a deeper, better-skilled pool of potential employees; and to offer students and others access to a live site to promote construction careers and help attract the best into the industry.

The initial partnership, which was formed in June 2008, comprised of Stepnell and it’s supply chain, Minster College, the LSC, Herefordshire County Council, Worcester College of Technology, Connexions Service, Jobcenter Plus, the Rural Regenaration Zone, and Business Link West Midlands. All partners signed up to a mission statement.

Student Work Experience

Contractors with the Stepnell supply chain signed up to a commitment of 2 days student work experience for every £100,000 contracted, which equated to over 300 work experience days. Work started on site in November 2008 and Stepnell were ready to trial site visits and work placements initially with a few students to check procedures both off and on site.

Site visits for students from Minster College started in December 2008 and were followed in January 2009 by students from Hereford College of Technology. March 2009 saw students from many local schools also visiting. As with this being the first project of it’s kind, the long lead time between the initial meetings of the partnership and first site visits happening, it was necessary to ensure that correct procedures and protocols were in place prior to any young people attending the site. By the end of July 2010, 520 student site visits had taken place together with around 100 adult site visits. Along side this, another 83 students had attended site on work placements, making a total of over 700 work placement days.

Organisational Needs Analysis

By December 2008 Business Link had engaged with the Stepnell supply chain and had commenced Organisational Needs Analysis (ONA) to assess training needs. Twenty ONA’s were completed. Followng this, three companies trialled an NVQ in Business Improvement Techniques and 31 candidates completed it by April 2009. By July 2010 employees from 16 companies had commenced NVQ courses through Train to Gain, 10 companies had taken up Director Development Training, 1 had been involved in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership and 1 had completed Asbestos Awareness training.

Feedback from the students and teachers involved in the initiative has all been imensely positive. All students said they learned something new from the experience and their teachers all believed it had a positive effect on the students. Feedback from employers indicated that the experience had been positive and had encouraged training within their companies.

Protocols and processes developed by Stepnell have been adapted for use in the other three Skills Academies.

Student Awards

To recognise the hard work of the students, awards were given out in December 2009 to the best student overall and for the best attendance and punctuality. The Stepnell Site Manager was also presented with the Stenell Site Managers Health And Safety Award, which recognised the hard work and dedication he had put into the Initiative whilst maintaining high levels of health and safety at all times.

A lot of publicity was generated about the initiative intially by Stepnell and Herefordshire Council promoting it to local education providers and Connexions services. Between March and June 2009 Stepnell gave presentations to Teachers and Governors of the Minster College, Hereford Head Teachers and Hereford Connexions. They also attended Careers fairs, work related learning conferences and the Herefordshire Expo. A dedicated website was set up where Stepnell partners and Contractors could get further information about how to get involved.

Integration and Colaborative Working Award

While working on this, and other educational projects for the Hereford Council, Stepnell has developed a consistent and highly effective team which has dekivered a major work experience programme, upskilling employees across the team and achieving enhanced performance and profitability. This led to Stepnell winning the WMCCE Integration and Colaborative Working Award 2010. They also scored 38.5 out of 40 under the Considerate Constructors Scheme, within the top 10% of projects nationally.