Recent reports indicate that the construction industry has made a significant recovery from the severe impacts felt in 2020, due to the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 outbreak and the subsequent lockdown measures.
According to the Construction Skills Network (CSN), the body which provides insights into the UK construction industry and its labour market, the outlook for 2021 to 2025 is more positive with the UK’s construction output expected to return to pre-Covid-19 levels in 2022.
Careers in construction cover an extensive range of occupations including bricklayers who are regarded as craftsmen or masons. While the construction industry is thriving, there is however, a shortage of skilled and qualified bricklayers.
Neil Briggs, Bricklaying Apprentice Master at Bloor Homes Midlands, explains: “We need to see 5,000 new bricklayers enter the trade every year for it to be viable. At present, there are 1,561 apprentice bricklayers in training but 60 per cent of them will leave the industry within one year of completing their apprenticeships. Furthermore, many apprentices who have completed their training are still unable to fulfil their job roles and as a result, the National House Building Council picks up many defects in their work.”
Recognising this need, Leicester College launched the Bricklaying Apprenticeship Standard programme. The course runs for 30 months and is designed to enable students to develop key skills as bricklayers. This apprenticeship programme allows apprentices to develop in the run-up to full-time employment, whilst gaining work experience and building contacts with leading housebuilders such as Bloor Homes, William Davis, Bellway and Morris Homes, among other companies. The college also runs a Level 1 Bricklaying Diploma and a Level 2 Technical Certificate. Upon completing these courses, students can progress onto the apprenticeship.
The practical and theoretical components of the course cover modules on skill, knowledge and behaviours. The former focuses on all aspects of bricklaying, brick and blockwork, decorative features and the correct use of tools, as well as health and safety, working to a schedule, environmental issues, energy efficiency, communication, materials, alternative and new building methods. Where behaviours are concerned, students will learn the importance of the quality of their work, the need to adopt a positive attitude, effective communication and being self-motivated.
Jude Jones, an alumnus, successfully completed an apprenticeship programme in 2018 and is now a qualified bricklayer with SW Jones Ltd where he takes a lead in completing jobs for his employer. He says that he has fulfilled his aspirations and credits Leicester College with setting him on the path to success.
He said: “Leicester College was recommended as one of the best further education colleges. My apprenticeship was fun and enjoyable plus it was great to learn a skill and find a new passion in life. The End Point Assessment (EPA) was challenging but I enjoy being put under a bit of pressure and having something to work for! It’s a great feeling having done all the work. The support was great and I felt the College helped to get me prepared for it all. Now I’m qualified I actually miss being an apprentice and spending time with other apprentices at college.”
In 2018, new standards were developed for bricklaying apprenticeships with the introduction of the EPA. This is an assessment of all the training and learning that takes place over the 30-month period. It consists of a multiple-choice test, a two-day practical task and an interview to assess the students’ level of knowledge. The academic rigour aims to drive quality and competency in the industry.
The 2018 cohort was the first to experience the change to the bricklaying course with the new standards and upon completing it, 20 students out of 21 achieved distinctions, despite contending with the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic – this makes their achievements particularly impressive. In addition, course tutors had to adapt their teaching methods and delivered lectures online.
Neil summed up and said: “The apprentices I help to train have been attending Leicester College where they have all achieved excellent results and have developed well on site. Bricklayers of the future will be in great demand and now is the time to get your training in. The new bricklaying standards that are delivered at Leicester College will help to ensure that you can be a part of the future in the building sector.”
Further information on the bricklaying apprenticeship standards can be found here.