The award-winning Weston College and its learners benefit from a huge number of partnerships it has established with the private sector.
Business Leader spoke to Emma Tate, Early Careers and Apprenticeships Lead at North Somerset-based Sweet Construct to learn more about how such a partnership can deliver positive results.
Can you give us an overview of Sweet Construct?
Sweet Construct is a commercial construction company based in Flax Bourton. Working as a Main Contractor, we provide all services from formwork to fit-out. This includes design, civil engineering, construction, and with joinery and manufacturing involving our sister company Sweet Joinery.
The company has been in operation for over 40 years and is now run by the third generation of the Sweet family. We have experienced considerable growth in the past 18 months and rebranded in September 2019 from H Sweet and Sons. This growth has led to an office move and the recruitment of many new departments, taking us from 21 employees to more than 60.
In January, we were also delighted to win the Enterprising West of England Ones to Watch 2020 Awards for North Somerset. A very proud moment!
What are the key concerns/challenges in the construction industry?
Skills shortage is a major challenge in the industry, threatened by an ageing workforce and by new technologies. At Sweet Construct, we recognise the importance of retaining our key employees and we want our people to enjoy working for us by giving them more than just a job.
Developing our people is a priority, and we have rolled out initiatives such as communications training because good communications help to drive engagement. We also have company-wide personal development plans to help the team map their careers and a clear focus on upskilling our early careers and apprenticeships team through a programme of bespoke training and workshops.
Why establish a partnership with Weston College?
We have chosen to work with Weston College as they are clearly aligned to our business needs. One of our key objectives for 2020 is to secure more work within a 90-minute radius of our head office so that our teams can enjoy a greater work/life balance and in order for us to deliver the best possible service to clients. Weston College fits perfectly with that ambition as the location is ideal for those on our early careers and apprenticeships programme.
We also wanted to strengthen our relationship with the community and provide high-quality employment for the local area. We selected Weston College because we are confident their apprenticeships would be the perfect way to recruit new employees, as well as to upskill existing colleagues.
What impact has the partnership had?
Through our partnership with Weston College we have employed apprentices from intermediate (level 2) through to higher apprentices (level 4) and have another due to start in September. The people that come to us from Weston College are highly motivated and skilled, backed by a support team of tutors and assessors, and an impressive range of apprenticeships and diploma courses.
Overall, we remain extremely impressed with the experience we have had working with Weston College, from the personal service we get with the Account Manager and Work Placement Officer, to the recruitment support we have had from the Apprenticeships team.
What are Sweet Construct’s future ambitions?
We plan to continue to grow and develop our early careers and apprenticeships programme, and will continue to work closely with Weston College, notably incorporating the Construction Manager Apprenticeship (level 4) into our plans for future pathways to site management roles. We also look forward to engaging on the new T-Level programme and welcoming a digital work placement student later in the year.
These are exciting times for Sweet Construct and for construction in the region. We are really pleased to be working with Weston College to achieve our ambitions for growth and recruitment of skilled, motivated teams.