Outstanding Apprentice Award

Category: People

Big congratulations to Luke Walsh for winning the Outstanding Apprentice of the Year – Construction and Engineering at the NTU Apprenticeship Awards 2024. The awards recognise the outstanding achievements of both apprentices and their employers and were held in May at Nottingham Trent University.

Luke effortlessly combines his undergraduate studies in Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management with being a key member of the Pre-construction Team. Since joining the business, Luke has developed tremendously within his role and has developed his interpersonal skills through asking questions, getting involved with the wider pre construction team and by listening and learning from his colleagues. Luke is a valued member of the team, contributes positively within the department, and actively takes the time to understand other key functions within the business.

Tom Sewell, Regional Director, Stepnell, said:
Since joining the business, Luke has demonstrated a passion and professional approach in everything he does. He openly listens to advice and experience around him, and applies it within his role. Actively questioning things to assist his development is never an issue. Very quickly demonstrating a real skill for estimating while approaching everything in a skilled and methodical way, he has quickly gained confidence from the pre-construction team around him. 

He is able and willing to hold himself confidently in a meeting and get his point across clearly. Luke is already pricing projects for the business and has quickly run with the NEC projects and ethos behind them. A very capable individual who has a very bright future ahead of him. Luke is adding real value to the business and our clients.”

These awards recognise the outstanding achievements of both our apprentices and their employers. All awards are voted for by current NTU employer partners and studying apprentices, with nominations across 11 categories shortlisted by an independent panel of judges.

Sue Woollett, Social Value Manager, Stepnell Ltd:
Luke has embraced social value as part of his role and understands it is integral to what we do. He participates enthusiastically in events, helps to promote our industry to young people, and is always willing to challenge himself and learn more.”

Read more about the awards and the winners here:

Stepnell Work Insights Programme

Category: Frameworks

Our recent work insight programme welcomed students from five schools and colleges across the D2N2 area to our Nottingham office for four days of work experience. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with students enjoying the talks delivered by professionals from all areas of construction, engaging in associated activities, and having the opportunity to complete a group project which they presented to a panel of judges at the end of the week.

High quality careers education is anchored in a framework known as the Gatsby Benchmarks.

The eight benchmarks of Good Career Guidance are:

  1. A stable careers programme
  2. Learning from career and labour market information
  3. Addressing the needs of each pupil
  4. Linking curriculum learning to careers
  5. Encounters with employers and employees
  6. Experiences of workplaces
  7. Encounters with further and higher education
  8. Personal guidance

Gatsby Benchmark 6 states:
By the age of 16, every pupil should have had at least one experience of a workplace, in addition to any part-time jobs they may have.” Schools are increasingly challenged to help students find such experiences, even as people return to office settings. Our offering supports schools in achieving this goal and aims to broaden young people’s understanding of construction.

“What does construction mean to you?”

This was the initial question posed to our students, resulting in a word cloud highlighting key themes such as teamwork, building, architecture, and planning.

Throughout the week, we deepened their understanding of the approximately 300 careers available in our industry through presentations covering bid writing, social value, marketing, business development, construction management, design, sustainability, quantity surveying, estimating, and IT. Fay, our business development manager, guided them in essential networking skills, such as choosing which group to join at events, confidently shaking hands, and crafting elevator pitches.


Many students expressed a keen interest in learning about apprenticeships and discovered that people’s initial career choices often evolve into unexpected industries and roles.

P, Year 10
“I feel like a lot of the talks were eye-opening and provided me with loads of encouragement to keep trying to do what I enjoy, regardless of what others might say, because there are plenty of opportunities along the way.”

Throughout the week, they honed their teamwork, planning, and decision-making abilities while working on their group project. This culminated in presentations to a panel of judges comprising three Stepnell employees and a careers teacher. 

The work insight programme was a great way to introduce people to our industry and also for us to learn about them, with a view to them as potential employees. Our succession planning requires us to spot talent in order to ensure a future workforce, and work experience provides an excellent opportunity for an extended interview. 


To find out how much they enjoyed the week and help us improve the experience for future participants, we asked the students for some feedback. 

What did you enjoy?

  • Group project
  • Talks from professionals
  • Activities

What could we improve?

  • More on-site or office experience
  • Space the talks and activities differently

Get in touch

Our work experience and insight opportunities are coordinated by our social value managers
Sue (East Midlands), Tash (Midlands) and Lindsay (South). If you would like to find out more, please email workexperience@stepnell.co.uk

Volunteering with Hurst Farm Regeneration Project

Category: Social Value

Stepnell volunteers recently undertook a unique construction challenge by assisting the Hurst Farm Regeneration Project in Matlock.

A team of Stepnell volunteers rebuild a drystone wall in Matlock, a unique construction challenge assisting the Hurst Farm Regeneration project.

On a mostly dry and sunny day, the volunteers worked alongside park ranger Amanda, an experienced drystone waller, to dismantle a broken drystone wall and rebuild its foundations. They received instructions on the wall’s components and appropriate tools, which they were able to use after a thorough health and safety briefing.

Additionally, the volunteers assisted in a local woodland, planting trees and removing invasive species such as sycamore and maples. They learned techniques for uprooting smaller plants and safely felling trees using the “step cut” and “80% front cut”. Aftercare manager Shaun was  particularly impressed with the inverted grass plug method of tree planting.

Hurst Farm, one of Derbyshire’s most deprived areas, hosts the Hurst Farm Regeneration Project, which aims to cultivate a thriving and vibrant community. The project includes social enterprises that offer locals opportunities to learn gardening, dry stone walling, woodland management, plus hospitality through initiatives like the Milk Churn Cafe. There is also the Farmer’s Larder, a farm shop which supplies locals with affordable fresh produce through a partnership with FareShare. 

After their efforts, the volunteers enjoyed a guided walk along part of the heritage trail, led by Louise, an apprentice ranger. They visited the Wishing Stone, and learned about plans to enhance views of Lumsdale Valley and proposals for planting native trees, plants, and wildflowers to boost biodiversity.

Stepnell offers all employees two volunteer days each year to support them to being proactive in activities that mutually benefit the individual, the company and the community. This opportunity was coordinated by Derbyshire Time Swap, a platform facilitating time exchanges between individuals and organisations to support community projects.

Lindsey Coombs, Time Swap Development Officer, High Peak & Derbyshire Dales said,
“The group of staff from Stepnell were enthusiastic, friendly and worked hard all day with smiles on their faces. It was an absolute joy to facilitate this exchange which made a big difference to a fantastic community project.”

All the volunteers said how much they had enjoyed getting out of the office and learning something new.

“The opportunity to get outdoors among nature is good for your physical and mental wellbeing and has given us an important insight to what these organisations are doing for their local communities. To be just a small part of this gives me a great sense of pride and achievement,”
Commented trainee quantity surveyor, Rachel.

Senior estimator David, was full of praise for the rangers at Hurst Farm.
“Amanda and Louise, our hosts extraordinaire, were not just fantastic, but loads of fun and overflowing with knowledge.”

The Stepnell volunteers are looking forward to returning later in the year, accompanied by more colleagues to make a bigger impact.

Staveley regeneration scheme moves ahead

Category: Construction

Plans for a landmark structure as part of a £6 million town centre improvement plan in Staveley, Derbyshire have been formally submitted.

The news means Staveley town centre is now a step closer to being revitalised under the Staveley 21 scheme, which will deliver a new marketplace, public realm, shops and connectivity with Chesterfield Canal.

Regional complete construction partner Stepnell, appointed through the Procure Partnerships Framework (PPF), has worked collaboratively with Chesterfield Borough Council and consultant partners, Whittam Cox, Rodgers Leask and Ares Landscapes, to progress the project’s plans and prepare it for the design and build stage.

The scheme forms part of a wider package of projects being delivered under the Staveley Town Deal, which saw it awarded £25.2m in March 2021 through the government’s Towns Fund deal.

If planning is approved, the new two-storey landmark pavilion building will sit between the Staveley Miners Welfare building and Staveley High Street, as a striking new focal point in the heart of the town centre.

Designed by local architects, Whittam Cox, the pavilion building aims to reflect Staveley’s heritage with a modern twist, opening up the view of the historic town from the marketplace. Several uses for the building are currently being considered, including as a potential site for a new library, retail and leisure amenities, and business start-ups.

Tom Sewell, regional director at Stepnell, said:
“Staveley 21 is our latest project on the Procure Partnerships Framework, through which we are showcasing our vast experience of collaborating with local authorities and partners to enhance public town centre spaces.

“We are a Champion of Chesterfield, and have previously delivered the Wellbeing Hub at Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Trust. The same team is currently nearing completion on the refurbishment of the Bluebell Ward at the town’s Walton Hospital as part of the NHS’s Make Room for Dignity Programme to improve mental health provision for older patients.

“As a complete construction partner, we will deliver exceptional quality throughout all aspects of the design and build stages that will generate lasting value to the community of Staveley. By working alongside the needs of residents and businesses in the town, Staveley 21 will enhance the wider package of works as part of the Staveley Town Deal.”

Staveley 21 includes the transformation of the marketplace to create an enlarged public space to support existing uses, such as regular markets, and provide a new public space to host a wide range of outdoor events to encourage footfall to the town centre.

Proposals include tiered seating to support an outdoor theatre and open-air cinema screenings, as well as natural play equipment to help make the marketplace feel more attractive to families.

New paving, energy efficient lighting, street furniture and landscaping will help create an enhanced atmosphere and visitor experience at any time of day or night, while new signage will help connect the town centre with Staveley’s other visitor attractions, including Chesterfield Canal and Staveley Hall.

Ivan Fomin, chair of the Staveley Town Deal Board, said:
“The Staveley 21 project has the potential to be transformative for the town centre, ensuring that it is a place where local people and visitors will want to spend time whilst also supporting local businesses to grow not only now but in the future. Our aim through the town deal is ensuring that Staveley is a place where people can Start, Stay and Grow and the town centre reflects this with something to entice all ages to visit, support local businesses and to help them to grow.”

During the development of Staveley 21, Stepnell will work with local schools and colleges to increase employment opportunities, particularly for those facing barriers to employment, and engage with the town centre’s community stakeholders.

If the proposals are passed, works are expected to start summer 2024, with completion scheduled for July 2025.

Innovation in construction

Category: Education

Construction works recently started on a new forest school in Coalville, Leicestershire, for Harworth Group plc, a leading regenerator of land and property for sustainable development and investment, with support from North West Leicestershire District Council and Leicestershire County Council.

Designed by award-winning firm Lungfish Architects, the two-form entry school is scheduled to open in 2024, and is being constructed using Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) rather than traditional methods.

Our teams paid the manufacturer, Innovaré Offsite, a visit to see how they will work. i-FAST SIPS panels have excellent insulation properties, reducing energy consumption and costs associated with heating and cooling.

i-FAST is a patented closed-panel framed wall system manufactured offsite with intrinsic fire, acoustic, structural, and thermal performance.

Advantages of this system:

  • The i-FAST panels are faced with A1 Non-combustible board and factory filled with A1 rated stone wool. The staggered stud arrangement reduces thermal bridging and acoustic transmission, while allowing protection of the stud in a fire scenario. This allows a unique proposal of a standalone panel system that exceeds 60 minutes’ fire resistance without reliance on additional lining boards.
  • The panels can be used to form the building structure or as infill. All components are recyclable, CE Marked or BBA Certified. The i-FAST system allows architects, specifiers and inspectors to be confident that the building will achieve a minimum level of performance and is fully supported by Innovaré’s in-house design, manufacturing and installation teams offering complete control over the project.
  • This construction method will accelerate the Forest School’s delivery and deliver ambitious building performance outcomes for the school, such as giving thermal values and airtightness significantly below DfE targets, helping to reduce energy demand and lower operational carbon.

Newark College student visits

Category: Construction

Newark College Electrical Installations Students Embark on an Exciting Enrichment Project to Transform Newark Town Centre

In a remarkable initiative, that combines education, hands-on experience, and community development, students from Newark College‘s Electrical Installation Study Programmes and Apprenticeships are shaping the future of Newark’s town centre.

The event led by Stepnell, with Newark and Sherwood District Council, allows the students to observe the project through the different stages of transforming the M&S foodhall on Stodman Street into a vibrant hub of residential homes and retail units. Beyond their initial site visit this week, the students will revisit the site for the demolition phase and continue to monitor the project until its successful completion.

Penny Taylor, MBE, Head of Newark Campuses, said: “We are delighted for our students to be involved in such a project; it reinforces our commitment to providing students with enriching experiences making them work-ready. The collaboration between educational institutions and local government and employers underscores the importance of nurturing the next generation of industry experts. As a college, we can’t replicate these experiences in the classroom – local employers enhance student experience, allowing them to visualise theory on a real project whilst actively investing in the betterment of the community.”

Under the expert guidance of professionals, students will have the unique opportunity to witness and contribute to the entire project life cycle. This enriching work experience with a local employer equips students with sector-specific knowledge for future employment within the industry.

Councillor Matthew Spoors, Portfolio Holder for Sustainable Economic Development at Newark and Sherwood District Council, said: “This was a great opportunity where we could provide local students with a unique experience to support them in their learning by visiting a major construction project. We’re always looking for opportunities to work with partners and to find ways we can support them in the work that we do. The plan for the former M&S building will help transform the empty building into a thriving area where living, working and shopping come together. We’re excited to get this project underway, and our Officers enjoyed informing students on the challenges and work that goes into renovating such a unique site.”

Image credit: rg+p Ltd

During this week’s site tour, Stepnell Senior Pre-Construction Manager Christian White provided students with valuable insights into the various stages of the project, including the complexities of demolishing a site in a highly pedestrianised town centre, emphasising the need for a controlled process over a 20-week period. Students also gained an understanding of the diverse professionals involved in such a large-scale project, including the coordination with the National Grid to ensure the absence of live cables during the demolition phase and the involvement of archaeologists to assess the need for an archaeological dig to preserve any artifacts – teaching students the importance of liaising with the different trades to ensure safety and efficiency throughout the project.

Christian said: “It was a fantastic opportunity to meet with the electrical installation students from Newark College for their first site visit to this multifaceted and significant development in the town centre. This project showcases the variety and complexity of works that electrical installers may expect to undertake with similar high street projects. We’re looking forward to continuing to engage with the students as the works progress. This education initiative adds to our social value plans during the project, including carbon reduction initiatives, employability programmes and targeted regional spending. These are all integral to generating the added value that we pride ourselves on delivering as a complete construction partner.”

Following their visit students had an engaging and innovative session with Stepnell on the importance of employer encounters. Students learned how they can enhance their CVs, key interview skills and ideal attributes of candidates. Reinforcing our employer-led commitment as a college to deliver an enriching curriculum.

Jake Wood, Level 3 Electrical Installations Apprentice at Newark College, said: “We are doing design at the moment in college which I’m really enjoying. Being on site, we got to see design plans for the new building. It’s good to understand the layout from the start and end of the project.”

The Stodman Street project was procured through the Procure Partnership Framework, these activities form part of our KPI commitments to delivering social value within the local communities of our framework schemes.

More information regarding the scheme please visit:

For more information on the Newark College Electrical Installations provision, please head to: https://shorturl.at/gtvB7