West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges

21 March 2023

Building confidence with Real Site Skills.

Creating opportunities and giving second chances is in the foundations of Forging Futures and the challenging work they do on the courses delivered at their site in Kirkstall Forge.

We spoke to managers Ewan Metcalf and Darren Hamer who said the primary focus is to support learners in building confidence in themselves, the course they are on and the wider skills they need for employment.

The Real Site Skills course is delivered through the Skills Connect project which is funded through the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Gainshare fund and managed through WYCC. Regardless of experience, the course is designed to provide people with opportunities to access essential training required to gain jobs, apprenticeships, and further opportunities in the construction sector.

The aim of this programme is to develop the knowledge, skills, behaviours, and attitudes that an individual requires to start or progress a career in the construction sector as a site operative.

Observing a day of the ‘Real Site Skills’ course and towards the end of the short course, learners were being taught tools and machinery handling with standard and common equipment they may be expected to use when starting a construction job, or a role in an aligned sector.

Being talked through the safe use of a Wacker Plate and a Pneumatic Drill, as well as other tools throughout the course, the Real Site Skills course gives learners experience that they do not get by just completing standard industry tickets. Boosting knowledge, skills, and confidence of using specific tools adds to their employability and opportunities of progression upon completion of the course. As a result, the courses helps to create a more capable workforce to enter the construction sector which is currently facing struggles to recruit and retain workers nationally.

Elliot stated he was in a bit of a rut because of not being in employment and not believing in myself. He said, “I can honestly say that meeting Darren and Ewan and just knowing people still believe in me it has given me the drive and motivation to achieve anything I set out to do.

Amongst the group completing the course, there was a wide range of ages, backgrounds, careers so far and geographical backgrounds. Ewan and Darren say that some of the success of the cohesion of the course group is down to this variation and diversity in background and experience, especially the wide range of ages.

It is highly likely to be a similar situation to when they walk on to a construction site job. They’ll be working in a varied team. Ewan said.

Progression is a key feature of the course, and the team at Forging Futures work hard to get opportunities, jobs, and experience for learners upon completion. Using their vast network of connections built up over decades combined in the sector, Ewan and Darren work hard to deliver on progression and many complete the course and go into a role the next week.

Jody, described how effective Ewan and Darren are at utilising their network for their learners. She said, “I sent my CV to Ewan and Darren in half an hour I had a job interview the next day. Amazing!

To support progression and ensure the best chances of retention and commitment wherever the learners progress, Forging Futures gives every learner an equipment pack to support their learning. Consisting of suitable work boots, helmet, masks, goggles, ear defenders and hi-vis clothing this means learners can go to their next step with suitable equipment. This also removes a barrier to continuation and supporting progression.

Many of the learners spoke of not only the excitement of the course and the progression, but the atmosphere of respect between learners and staff, the enthusiasm of a fresh start or second chance and mostly the brilliance in the experience and knowledge of the teaching staff.

With the course being free of cost (fully funded*), learners discussed that they viewed the two weeks of the course as the biggest investment into their career and education and were enthusiastic that opportunities like these should be extended for many more and in many other sectors.

There are still two more cohorts of the ‘Real Site Skills’ course to run in the coming months, and you can find out more here. There is an open day on the 4th May, with a cohort starting on the 16th May, further dates will also be announced for June.

*Must be aged 19 or over on the course start date. Employed, Self-Employed and Unemployed participants are eligible. Must have the right to legally reside and work in the UK and live in in West Yorkshire. Participants cannot be in full time education or on an apprenticeship at the time of joining. Must not have undertaken a Skills Connect course in the past (an individual can only receive funding for one course).


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