Costain Apprenticeships

Author: Joe Cooper and Ross Trickett

10 June 2015

Due to record investment in infrastructure and leisure alongside an increase in private housing and the commercial sector, the construction skills network predicts 224,000 extra construction jobs will be needed by 2019. It would appear an increase in apprenticeships would be the perfect solution to bridge this gap, however… 

New Research has shown careers advice being given to young people about working in construction is out dated and ill-informed, with over 60% of careers advisers in schools offering no information on job prospects based on available work. This is worrying enough, yet the situation worsens when looking at the construction sector in particular; 35% of careers advisers believe construction is an unattractive career.

These statistics show that while there is a high demand for workers in our sector this is not being addressed; the people educating our potential future construction workers need educating themselves!

As apprentices ourselves we feel we have first-hand experience of a successful application (what is required), what an apprenticeship involves and the opportunities it offers. We recently went to St. Benedict’s and Bolsover School because we felt it was important to inform the students of industry opportunities available through apprenticeships. We did not get this advice during our time at school and felt that it was important to share our knowledge and experience we have gained while working for Costain on the M1 smart motorways project. A one day student ambassador course also helped; it developed our knowledge of how to interact with children of certain age groups, what to say/what not to say and how to present to groups. It also acted as a confidence booster. We didn’t start our apprenticeships in a typical fashion:


Joe Cooper
I left school and went on to do A levels at college for two years, with my goal set at going to do a course at university. During my time at college I became less and less interested in following that route, so when I completed my exams and collected my results in July 2013 I turned down my university offers and decided to search for a job while I looked for engineering apprenticeships in my spare time, my Dad had encouraged me on this route as he’s an engineer himself and we’d worked on electrical and mechanical projects involving cars and motorbikes in the past. After a year of working at my local supermarket and applying for / attending interviews for apprenticeships I received a notification that I’d been offered an interview for electrical engineering at Costain.

Ross Trickett
I spent six years of my life as a landscape gardener; I took this route as it was an easy one, I felt university wasn’t for me and I’d not been informed of the opportunities available through apprenticeships – I wish someone had sat me down at 15/16 years old and said ‘don’t take the easy option, look at what else is available.’ I finally decided I wanted more out of life and an apprenticeship in engineering would be the perfect challenge and chance to better myself. Due to my age (24) there was an issue with funding and it took me two years to finally gain the opportunity of becoming an engineer through an apprenticeship; I feel extremely lucky for this and the student ambassador role is perfect to give something back.

We have been given a fantastic opportunity but feel we would have benefited more if we were educated on the path we chose at the correct times - during secondary education. Choosing a certain career path can change your whole life and is a big decision for a 16 year old to make. Any help we can give someone at this point in their life can be hugely beneficial for their future. We can give them accurate, first hand, up to date advice on the construction sector, showing them it is far from an ‘unattractive career.’ This provides us with a sense of achievement and reflects well on Costain as well as helping people make a correct life choice.

We would be keen to hear thoughts about why careers advice in schools is not working, especially considering the significance of Costain and the wider industry engaging schools and colleges.