An aspiring joiner has been shown what a livelihood in construction could look like by taking part in a work experience opportunity during a major firm’s expansion to a Cardigan secondary school.
Willow Kehily has taken her first steps onto a construction site as part of a placement at Wynne Construction site Ysgol Uwchradd Aberteifi, located just a ten-minute walk from her home in the town.
Through the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) Onsite Experience hub programme managed by Cyfle Building Skills, Willow is just one of many participants in South West Wales who have been connected to contractors building in the region.
Bodelwyddan-based Wynne hosted her placement as it refurbishes and expands the school, which is its first project won under the South West Wales Regional Contractors Framework (SWWRCF).
After being made redundant from her job in retail, mother-of-one Willow took the decision to head back to education to study a Level 1 joinery and carpentry diploma at Coleg Ceredigion’s Cardigan campus, where she learnt about the scheme.
Willow, who previously studied philosophy, said: “I’m pursuing a career in joinery as I want a role with increased security, stability, and one which will allow me to develop a skillset to support myself and my son long term.
“My son is at the age where he doesn’t think twice about my occupation. It’s important to me that he continues to see his mum in a strong role and represented in a particularly male-dominated industry.
“Working on the school has been a major milestone in my career as it is my first go at the job and after only a few days on the site, I am 100 per cent sold on the career path.”
Willow’s placement is one of many Wynne has hosted across its construction sites, with the company’s Wynne Futures Foundation aiming to facilitate and provide more than 100 work experience placements and 250 apprenticeships by 2025.
Willow added: “In college you learn the basics which are obviously fundamental, but seeing how the skills developed in the classroom play out practically and getting a taste for life onsite has been brilliant to take part in alongside the team at Wynne.
“Days might be fast-paced, but I’ve never been made to feel like my questions are too time consuming and the team really take the time to offer guidance at every step. Nothing is ever too much trouble for anyone at Wynne.”
Cyfle helps individuals secure employment in South West Wales and has been delivering the CITB programme for more than a year, allowing more than 140 companies to engage with 335 candidates completing a placement.
Anthony Rees, regional manager for Cyfle Building Skills, said: “People in the early stages of their training rarely get this kind of work experience before taking on an apprenticeship, so managing this scheme has allowed more young people to develop essential skills, which is ultimately what we are here for.
“As well as satellite centres in colleges, we try to reach all corners of the community by working closely with people in social housing and those who are unemployed to help them kick-start a career in the industry.
“It’s a win-win situation; people in the local area don’t have to look far for valuable experience, and contractors building in the region can access nearby talent for its supply chain.”
Alison Hourihane, social value manager at Wynne Construction, said: “Encouraging onsite experience at an early career stage and making it more readily available can inspire underrepresented groups to pursue a career in the industry and safeguard the construction sector for years to come.
“Willow is a brilliant example of how providing these opportunities may help those interested in construction reskill and find out what they truly enjoy, which has the added benefit of boosting employment locally and widening the pool of talent we work with.”