Seven apprentices have become the first to graduate from an innovative collaboration between a civil engineering firm and a college.
Employer Jones Bros Civil Engineering UK and Coleg Cambria have modernised the approach to delivering higher apprenticeships in civil engineering.
Traditionally, students would be on day release throughout the programme, spending four days of the week on site with the employer, with the fifth day at the college.
The apprentices instead alternated between blocks of time at Coleg Cambria, where there is a dedicated room at the Bersham Road campus in Wrexham and working on sites such as the world’s largest offshore wind farm, a £135m bypass, a £32m level crossing scheme, and complex landfill projects.
And Ruthin-headquartered Jones Bros has seen the first seven of the higher apprentices, who have completed a four-year civil engineering course that started with a Higher National Certificate (HNC) and finished with a Higher National Diploma (HND), graduate.
The seven civil engineers, who are now working across a host of national projects for Jones Bros, are Gary Salisbury, Gwion Euron Lloyd, Hari Wyn Evans, Chris Hunt, Reece Davies, Sion Gwilym Williams, and Rhys Williams.
Gary, who lives in Mold, is thrilled to be part of the first intake to qualify from the course.
“It’s fantastic to be part of the first group to qualify,” he said. “The way the course was planned out, in terms of blocks of study followed by blocks of onsite work, was ideal.
“When you were in the classroom there were no distractions from those onsite, you could focus solely on your education for that period.”
Gary started life with Jones Bros as a general construction operative (GCO) before moving onto the course, which saw him work on the A49 link road in Wigan.
The 24-year-old also worked on a gas power plant in Glasgow prior to heading to Dogger Bank, the world’s largest offshore wind farm, where he has increased responsibility as quality/engineering manager on the AC route section of works.
He added: “The projects I have worked on have provided invaluable experiences covering a variety of different aspects of civil engineering.
“The support we received from everyone associated with the course and those onsite was brilliant.”
Another of the successful intake, Gwion, from Harlech, cut his teeth on the £135m Caernarfon and Bontnewydd bypass.
He said: “I really enjoyed being part of the new-look course, which certainly helped me in terms of the blocks of learning and hands-on experience as there were no external distractions when you were learning.
“Then when you were onsite you could get stuck in, and it was rewarding to be part of the team that started and finished the Caernarfon and Bontnewydd bypass.
“To be able to work on drainage, kerb runs, surfacing, vehicle restraint barriers, and earthworks provided wonderful variety and gave me a real insight into life beyond the course.”
Gwion, who also spent four months at the Whinney Hill landfill in Lancashire, is now working on a job helping build a lorry park in Middlewich, Cheshire.
Jones Bros training manager, Garmon Hafal, said: “Jones Bros prides itself on providing young people with a chance of employment, learning skills, and recognised industry qualifications.
“This was the first time the course had been run in its current guise with blocks of learning followed by uninterrupted time onsite, and I am happy to see that it has been a success with seven of the intake qualifying.”
Established in the 1950s, Jones Bros owns one of the largest plant fleets in the UK and employs approximately 500 people.
The company runs an award-winning apprenticeship scheme, which has produced nearly 50 per cent of its current workforce, with many of its senior managers having started out as apprentices or in a trainee role. It has recruited more than 100 apprentices during the past three years.