There are two basic types of apprenticeships open to people looking to learn the construction skills they need in order to work in the industry.
Broadly referred to as traditional and specialist apprenticeships, there’s actually very little difference between them in terms of what you will be asked to do.
The only difference is one of definition. A traditional apprenticeship follows the normal pattern of college learning and on the job training combined; while a specialist apprenticeship is arranged with independent training outfits or trade associations, where there is no comparable college course that can be married with the trade in question.
A Traditional Construction Apprenticeship
A traditional construction apprenticeship mixes college study with a long period of on the job training. On average, a traditional apprentice can expect to qualify into his or her trade after three years in the UK (it’s four years in Scotland though). The apprenticeship involves qualifying for the relevant Construction NVQ (or SVQ, in Scotland), which in turn makes you eligible to receive the appropriate industry card: a CSCS Card for most trades, or its equivalent in independently regulated trades. Electrotechnical; plumbing and mechanical engineering; HVAC; and hazardous waste removal all have their own CSCS cards, which are used as CSCS equivalents for getting onto a building site.
A Specialist Construction Apprenticeship
A specialised construction apprenticeship can be applicable where your trade has no NVQ equivalent and you can’t learn for it at college. You can arrange a different route with your employer, whereby most of your specialist training is done on the job. A qualified person will measure your on the job skills according to a framework that allows you to qualify with a Construction NVQ equivalent.
CSCS Cards will be issued to apprentices who have achieved a Construction NVQ equivalent, as though they had achieved the correct level of NVQ directly. In most cases your chosen trade will have NVQ course modules available for it. If you have any questions regarding the correct apprenticeship route for the trade you have chosen you should ask your employer. He or she has been through the route himself or herself already and is well placed to answer your questions.
Where to Attend Construction NVQs or SVQs
In Scotland you will need to achieve the correct SVQ; in the rest of the UK it’s the correct Construction NVQ. Either way you need somewhere to take your college classes if you are going to complete the theory and exams side of your industry qualification. Fortunately, there are plenty of colleges all over the country that provide Construction NVQ courses in the construction skills you need. You’ll find that many standard colleges provide Construction NVQ; as do industry specific training centres. Your employer may even have recommendations for a college that he or she has seen apprentices come through in the past.
You’ll need to get hold of a CSCS Card to work with your employer onsite, while you are training for your construction apprenticeship. Talk to Construction Support Line about booking your CSCS Test.