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Common questions about Construction industry placements

This article looks at some of the challenges that employers offering industry placements in this skill area have been facing, with potential solutions for you to consider.

Safety

A construction site can be dangerous, and staff may often need a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card to gain access to a site. How can we make sure students are safe?

For some occupational specialisms in construction, it may be a requirement for industry placement students to have a CSCS trainee card. It is the main employer, contractor or the client’s decision as to who must possess a CSCS card. Find out more about CSCS cards on the Specific requirements for Construction industry placements article. 

 

Insurance

Things can go wrong on a construction site, so having insurance in place that covers my business is vital. How can I make sure I’m covered for industry placement students?

You will need to hold up to date Employers' Liability Insurance (ELI) and Public Liability insurance and you must notify your insurer about the placement. If you do not already have ELI, you will need to have it in place before the placement begins and for the duration of the placement. If your insurer is a member of ABI, or Lloyds, ELI policies already cover placements. The college or school will need to check that you have insurance cover.

You can find further advice on the Health and Safety Executive's website.

Our reputation

We mostly work in clients’ homes where customer service and trustworthiness are key to gaining repeat business and referrals. Is it a risk taking on an industry placement student that we don’t know to work with us?

There is a degree of risk when anyone new is working under your company name, whether that’s an industry placement student, a casual labourer or a full-time employee.

However, with industry placement students you can give the school or college specific applicant criteria and sift CVs or interview potential students if you wish.

This means you can get a good sense of how trustworthy and customer-focused a placement student is first-hand, before offering them a placement opportunity.

You could also start the student on non-domestic, trade jobs, like shop fitting, or with clients you have a good working relationship with, to allow them to demonstrate their credentials and trustworthiness, before giving them work in new client homes.

Capacity to host a student

I might not have the capacity to host a student for the full 315 hours, but I still want to get involved. How can I?

You can share a placement with one other employer to make a complete placement of at least 315 hours.

Both employers would agree appropriate projects and activities that support the student’s development objectives. It may be that you can offer a placement in partnership with a large contractor that you’re working with on a specific project. For example, a student could be on placement at a new housing build, where you will be on site as a subcontractor for just a few weeks. It could be that the placement student works and learns from you during your time on site and then returns to complete their placement with the main contractor. For more information see Sharing industry placements with other organisations.

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Would I have to pay for personal protective equipment (PPE) for a placement student?

All staff are usually issued with the equipment they need to do their jobs, so supplying the right equipment to a placement student is expected. The school or college you are working with may be able to provide the equipment the student needs or tell you the sizes of the student so you can make sure your spare PPE will fit.

For smaller businesses, it is always a good investment to have surplus PPE for when you are working with casual labourers or for when your team forget their equipment. A placement student could use some of this additional kit.

Ready for the workplace

What if students are not ready for the workplace, or the standards that we expect?

Firstly, the industry placement is designed to give young people experience in a real workplace and help them understand the standards that employers expect in the construction industry. This experience is a component of their learning and will help them transition to the world of work.

To better prepare students for a placement with your company, you could:

  • visit the college or school for a Q&A session with prospective students to explain how you work
  • work with the college or school to recruit students who are likely to fit with your ways of working

Secondly, a realistic and supportive approach will pay off longer term. Of course, students need to be made aware of the professional behaviour, language and effort you expect, but if students feel isolated on placement, they could disengage early. Giving them time to develop the right skills and behaviours will give them the start they need for their future career.

Working hours

Our projects can start early and finish late when the days are longer. Can industry placement students work outside of 9-5?

Work out of normal hours is an ideal opportunity to expose students to the realities of working in the construction industry.

When you’re planning the industry placement, talk to the student and their college or school about how flexible they can be with hours. Placements can take place outside of normal working hours as long as the student and the college or school are happy.

Weather

Work on site can be weather dependent. How do I find tasks for an industry placement student to do when rain or snow affects work?

If your work is predominately outdoors, you could work with your school or college to arrange an industry placement as a block in the spring or autumn when it is less likely weather will affect work on site. Planning the placement as a block over several weeks at these times might work well and allow the student to experience a whole project.

It is also a good idea to plan tasks in advance that could be done during periods of bad weather. This might involve showing an industry placement student how to use a piece of kit they haven’t experienced, carrying out additional health and safety training or involving them in a short duration project that will support the rest of the placement.

Travel

How will we get an industry placement student to site if they don’t have transport?

The school or college you are working with might provide student transport, especially if you’re offering several students an opportunity on the same site, so talk to them in the first instance.

Another way to get students to site is to arrange to take several students from an agreed centralised and suitable pick-up point.

Time to supervise

We don’t have time to supervise a student. How do we make a placement work?

You could begin by allowing students to work in a supporting role with your staff. This gives you a chance to get to know their capabilities and interests and allows students to understand the way you work. Over time you will be able to give them work to do that will make a more significant contribution to your business.

There are also direct benefits for supervisors and mentors, such as the opportunity to develop management skills. This may be especially valuable for technical staff who have had limited management experience.

Some employers have devised schemes that acknowledge and possibly reward line managers or mentors who work with students, recognising that the employee has developed their leadership and management skills.

We usually hire apprentices

We usually hire apprentices for construction roles. Why do we need industry placement students too?

The construction industry has a long history of employing and developing apprentices. Some employers say that at times, apprentices can lack the work-readiness to immediately work in the industry. Offering students industry placement experience gives students a chance to explore construction as a career and gives you an opportunity to see first-hand whether an individual student would be a good fit when they have completed their studies.

You could partner your apprentice with the Industry Placement student so that the student can learn from and with the apprentice, covering on the days the apprentice is out at college. This could help to reduce supervisory requirement and show the student how the apprenticeship programme works.

Essentially, industry placements can provide a pipeline of talent for your apprenticeship programmes.

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