An innovative programme funded by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to give local people the skills they need to start a new career in construction has moved online for the first time, to continue training during the Covid-19 shutdown.
The WMCA has worked with Birmingham-based training provider RMF Construction Training Academy to create a range of new courses in virtual classes by experienced tutors, in an innovative pilot scheme for the Construction Gateway programme.
The Construction Gateway offers unemployed people a free, hands-on introduction to construction skills – providing them the ‘tickets’ and qualifications they need to be site-ready for work – and, crucially, guarantees them a job interview on completion of the course.
A trainer at RMF Construction is filmed showing learners how to check for cables below the ground, to ensure that it is safe to dig. Picture courtesy of RMF Construction
The online classes, which started last week, enable candidates from across the West Midlands to access construction training, including an industry-specific Level 1 in health and safety, as well as plant machinery training on dumper trucks, ride-on rollers and excavators – all from their own homes.
The courses will include drone-captured video demonstrations and a mixture of group and one-to-one sessions. Each candidate will also benefit from one-to-one support for any additional help they may need.
The learners will be able to gain qualifications which are essential to work on any site, such as the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card, and more in-depth courses including City and Guilds accredited Level 2 NVQ in rail engineering track maintenance.
Groups of up to 12 will be able to take part in the courses, which will vary in length from three days to ten weeks depending on the course and each learner’s previous experience, with more than 50 people already signed up.
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “We know this is a very difficult time for the region, but when we emerge from lockdown, we will still have skills shortages in key sectors, including construction.
“And there are job vacancies now in the infrastructure sector, which means some people who have lost their jobs due to Covid-19 have an opportunity for a new start in construction.
“It’s brilliant news that we’ve been able to set up online training, in a sector where this might not seem possible, through this new scheme that we’ve developed in partnership with RMF Construction Training Academy.”
Dara McCarthy, operations manager at RMF Construction Training Academy, said: “We’re proud to be working with the WMCA to enable local people to continue to learn construction skills during these challenging times.
“We have filmed a series of video tutorials for our trainers to deliver digitally, and each candidate will be assigned an adviser who will assess their experience and develop a training plan.
“An additional benefit of online sessions is that candidates will be able to screenshot demonstrations on their phone and watch these as often as they need to, which is a good way of learning.”
The online training comes at a time when many new technological developments, such as GPS machine controls, are entering the construction industry. RMF intends to continue delivering digital courses to give the construction workforce the skills to adapt to these new ways of working.
Adults who are currently unemployed, or on short-hours contracts or low-skilled jobs, are eligible to join the Construction Gateway. This gives those who have lost work due to the coronavirus outbreak an opportunity to improve their skills and gain new qualifications. As well as learning practical, hands-on skills, learners also get help with interview techniques, CV writing and employability skills.
After completing the course, learners are supported on their journey to work through the National Careers Service for as long as they need, regardless of whether their first interview is a success.
Those who are not offered a job immediately are added to the West Midlands “site-ready talent pool” – which is shared with construction recruiters and provides a list of people who are ready for work immediately.