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Building a career in construction

20 January 2020

Students interested in a career in the construction industry have been experiencing work on a live building site at their own school.

The group of 28 Haute Vallée School students are learning from builders, electricians and painters and decorators who are working on the school’s new Additional Resourced Centre – a bespoke space that means students with social or communication needs or autism can access mainstream education.

The students, aged 14 to 16, are part of a new vocational course run by Highlands College and Haute Vallée and Grainville schools. This initiative is part of the schools’ on-going partnership in promoting skills-based experiential learning. Each week more than 170 students from both schools attend Highlands College to study from a range of skills-based vocational qualifications in construction, hair and beauty, automotive studies and culinary arts.  

The construction course is a mixture of theory and hands-on vocational work in which students spend one lesson a week at Haute Vallée learning about theoretical aspects of construction – from health and safety documentation to risk assessments – and another lesson a week at Highlands College, where they put their classroom learning into practice. 

And students have benefited from having construction workers at their school to ask questions, watch them carry out work or go through necessary documents for the building work. Students have also found out about the diverse career opportunities in the sector – from hands-on work to project management.

As part of the course, students have built walls using bricks and mortar and begun to learn the foundations of painting and decorating.

Jack Shields (15), who is hoping to one day work for himself as an electrician, said: “This course is the best way for me to see what it’s like to work in a physical environment. I’ve really enjoyed building walls and prepping them for painting. It’s satisfying to create a finished product that I know I have done.”

Kyle Udo (15) added: “I picked this course because it is going to be beneficial for when I’m older so I can do my own jobs at home. Construction is something I’ve enjoyed since my dad worked in the industry for a little bit. I’ve always thought construction was interesting and I’d like to set up a construction business in the future. Jersey has a lot of building work going on so it is the ideal place.”

The Minister for Education, Senator Tracey Vallois, said: “This is an excellent example of a course that connects theory to real life so that students can make a genuine connection between what they learn in the classroom and how they can apply it in the real world. I am delighted that the students are already seeing the benefits of the course, which has given them ambitions for a career in Jersey.”

The Additional Resourced Centre, which is being built by Regal Construction, is not only a learning hub for the construction students. When it is finished, it will provide a self-contained and safe space for children with social or communication needs to have one-to-one support or lessons in small, quiet rooms.

Haute Vallée teacher Stuart McGarry said: “This new course, partnering Haute Vallée School with Highlands College, equips students with real-life skills and knowledge they can use directly in the world of construction. A lot of the students will go on to do post-16 courses or apprenticeship schemes so this experience will give them a great foundation.”

Regal Construction’s Luke Minier has been taking the students around the site, answering their questions and going through the kind of documents necessary for a safe build.

“While we’re on the school’s site, it can only help to build our relationship if we can support the students’ learning,” he said. “I am going through a construction management training course myself so I appreciate how helpful it is to have that industry experience.”​

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