Chrissie Chadney, head of training at Willmott Dixon, talks about the group's ‘reach out’ initiative that encourages teenagers to choose a career in construction
How will the National School Students Recruitment Initiative work?
The nationwide programme will target school students aged 14-16 who intend to study through to A-level or GNVQ. It will provide the opportunity for them to spend two days on Willmott Dixon construction sites to gain direct work experience by “shadowing” current Willmott Dixon trainees. The school students can shadow either a construction management trainee, quantity surveying trainee, or trainee design-and-build co-ordinator.

Why did you set up this programme?
Obviously the skills shortage in the industry was part of the reason for this initiative. We found that we weren’t getting the number of graduates applying to the firm that we would like and realised that we needed to be targeting potential recruits earlier – before they leave school.

What are the aims?
To introduce schoolchildren to the industry in an interesting and relevant way by allowing them to spend time with young trainees to whom they can directly relate. We hope the school students will go back to their schools and act as champions for careers in construction.

We hope the school students will go back to their schools and act as champions for careers in construction

We will also encourage the Willmott Dixon trainees involved in the programme to visit the schools later in the year and talk about the job, to establish an alumni recruitment network. This will help to establish a bridge between local schools and the Willmott Dixon company operating in the same area, thus initiating a continuing relationship between the two.

How many schools will be involved?
The first project has already been launched with the Phoenix High School in west London, where four school students shadowed Willmott Dixon trainees on a social housing site in White City Close and a major construction project on the A40 Westway. We have also set up projects with Haddon High School in Nottingham and Romney High School in Cardiff. By the end of this year, we aim to have 10 live projects with local secondary schools across the country each managed by a Willmott Dixon regional office. Each project will “reach out” to two or three local schools.