Can a child of seven appreciate great buildings? Will a 15-year-old see the career opportunities construction has to offer? Well yes, but only if construction firms go to schools and actually talk to young people
A child’s first encounter with construction is often an enjoyable one, through playing and having fun with Duplo bricks or Lego at a very early age. To help develop that interest in later years, ConstructionSkills has teamed up with the Federation of Master Builders to create a primary schools programme that introduces seven to 11-year-olds to the wider possibilities of the construction industry.
Set to be launched in spring 2005, “Building the Future” will involve distributing resource packs to schools that complement Key Stage 2 of the National Curriculum. The packs will use games and exercises that are fun and informative to help promote a positive image of the industry (see below).
Charlotte Right, marketing executive at the FMB, says: “By the time children move on to secondary school, many of them will already have made their judgment about construction. And often, parents will already have put them off any notion of getting a job in the industry. So we are trying to reach children at a very early stage.”
The activity packs will also be sent out to FMB members who will be asked to take the packs and give them to the families they meet during the course of their working day. The hope is that parents, by playing the games with their children, will also become more positive about construction.
As well as schemes such as “Building the Future”, ConstructionSkills has a continuous dialogue with secondary schools through its regional offices.
In 2002, CITB-ConstructionSkills took part in activities with over 6000 schools and 130,000 pupils. Activities ranged from giving talks about the industry to supporting school science projects with curriculum resources.
Inside the packs
The FMB has designed two resource packs – one for teachers, which is currently being distributed, and a second pack for children that will be launched next year:
- The teacher's pack contains a CD-Rom explaining how to incorporate construction activities into Key Stage 2 of the National Curriculum, for example, how the principles of bridge building might be used in maths classes.
- The children's homework pack contains a "stay safe" pack produced by the Health and Safety Executive. It uses games such as word searches and a sticker book to teach children how to play safely and also activities such as model building to encourage an interest in the built environment.
Through the sector skills agreement, ConstructionSkills will support the expansion of education business partnerships to provide construction curriculum activities to all schools.
A Luton project: Connaught goes back to school
In an initiative to raise awareness about construction among teenagers, facilities management provider Connaught teamed up with Luton council to arrange a site visit for 21 GCSE students from Stopsley High School in Luton. The pupils visited the nearby Ashcroft estate, which is owned by the council and is in the process of being refurbished. Nick Knight, site manager for Connaught, gave a talk and arranged a site visit, for which the students were fully kitted out with hard hats and high visibility vests. Knight says the site visit was an opportunity to bring construction to life. "We wanted to educate the youngsters about the estates where many of them live," he says.
John Quinn, group surveyor at Luton council, explained the history of social housing and the refurbishment and regeneration of the Ashcroft estate – locally dubbed "Tin Town" because of its corrugated roofs. "We wanted to show the youngsters an example of how they could potentially find employment within their own community," he says.
Alan Keers, property maintenance manager of Luton council, says the council recognises the need to stimulate the interest of local school children in construction, if Luton is to continue growing. "We are keen to encourage the industry to be more representative of the local community. Connaught has demonstrated its commitment to the community by employing an essentially local workforce, giving youngsters an incentive to consider construction as a real career opportunity."
Steve Goodwin, careers co-ordinator at Stopsley High, says it is always useful to take students out of the school environment to show them industry in action. He says: "It was a great opportunity to discover first-hand the workings of the site, and to investigate the qualifications required to enter into apprenticeships in the construction industry. The day was a great success, and I know the boys enjoyed the visit. However, it was indicative of prevailing gender stereotypes associated with construction that no girls showed an interest or signed up."
But the day was largely a success; 18 pupils requested Connaught job packs.
CITB Supplement 2004
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Step 1: educate the people - Young hearts and minds