Bricks and mortar boards: Barratt Sponsored Degree programmes help plug the skills gap

Published on

9 September 2019

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John Bowden, Corporate Sustainability Co-ordinator at Barratt Development PLC

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Thomas Reason (centre) graduates from the Residential Development and Construction Programme (left: David Thomas, CEO; right: Steven Boyes, COO)

To help mitigate the growing skills gap in the construction industry, leading homebuilders have developed flexible programmes that support a work-education balance to encourage today’s youth to join the industry. John Bowden, Corporate Sustainability Co-ordinator at Barratt Development PLC highlights the positive impacts of Barratt’s Sponsored Degree programmes below.

“When schooling comes to an end, choosing whether it is best to stay in the classroom and gain further qualifications, or to look for work right away to gain experience on the job can be a tough decision to make. The debts stacked up by graduates in full time education are also an increasing factor in deciding what to do next for many young people.

The Barratt Sponsored Degree Programme offers an alternative solution. Endorsed by the Home Builders Federation, the degree enables those who enrol to start a real salaried job and gain a BSc Honours degree in either Construction or Commercial fields on completion of the programme.

The sponsored degree is part of a range of efforts taken by housebuilders to plug the skills gap that the industry knows it must tackle to secure a successful future. A third of housebuilding workers are over the age of 50, but research indicates many young people do not select housebuilding as a career choice with a lack of understanding over the range of opportunities available being a contributing factor.

The five-year programmes are run in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University and two degrees are available: the Sponsored Construction Degree resulting in a BSc (Hons) Professional Practice in Residential Development and Construction qualification; or the Sponsored Commercial Degree resulting in a BSc (Hons) Professional Practice in Residential Development and Quantity Surveying qualification. Completion of both is intended to fast track the graduates into leadership roles soon after.

Students on the programme can expect a wide range of learning activities, says Barratt’s Head of Talent Management, Andy George.

“Key to the programme is ensuring balance between the academic study conducted at Sheffield Hallam, where students take four teaching blocks per year, with getting out and learning how it’s done in practice. Students get plenty of time on construction sites but they also undertake rotations around the business. They are mentored by a senior manager to ensure they understand the full lifecycle of how a house in planned, built and sold.”

The Degree programme is heavily promoted through workshops and careers fairs, with construction ambassadors able to answer queries with real on-the-job experience. Learner’s networks are also used – the best advocates for the programme can be those who are on it. Information is available to learners on the Barratt Careers website and to students at the West Midlands Technical College of which Barratt is a Patron.

This outreach work has shown results. Since 2013, 129 employees have enrolled on the programme, and 86% of externally recruited students currently with the business have been promoted from Trainee Assistant Site Manager to Assistant Site Manager or above. There are currently 26 students on our Commercial Sponsored Degree, and we are looking to take on an additional 26 to start in January, and 21 new Construction students.

Thirty-two graduates have completed the BSc courses, a 100% achievement rate, a first for the housebuilding industry, and one has signed up to do an MBA.

The Sponsored Degree Programmes form part of a package of initiatives reflecting Barratt’s ‘Investing in Our People’ priority, and its sustainability focus area of Attracting, Inspiring and Retaining People. In its 2019 Annual Report, the Group adopted seven United Nations Sustainable Development Goals where it sees the potential to make the greatest contribution, including ‘Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth’.”