Pupils at Mary Immaculate High School in Cardiff have had a unique opportunity to learn construction skills on a real building site.
The school has run a construction course for more than a decade, but has never been able to offer pupils any real-life practical experience – until now.
As part of a project involving Bridgend College and Taylor Wimpey, a group of year 9 pupils recently visited a new Taylor Wimpey housing development site near Cowbridge.
There, they got to try their hand at bricklaying as well as learning all about apprenticeships.
Johanne Samuel, Apprentice Manager at Taylor Wimpey South Wales, said: “As a house builder, we jumped at the chance to inspire the next generation as we are very passionate to show the career opportunities construction can offer.
“We started by giving them a taster session in bricklaying. A couple of the new apprentices acted as Taylor Wimpey ambassadors to help on the day to share their experiences. I can safely say they thoroughly enjoyed their day with us. A fantastic effort was made by all.”
Robert Clover, construction lecturer at Bridgend College, said: “Taylor Wimpey has a number of bricklaying apprentices studying with Bridgend College one day a week at their on-site training facility. Together, we want to involve local schools in practical training days, which might also help the pupils become the apprentices of the future.”
Mark Rayer, construction teacher at Mary Immaculate, said: “We do some basic construction in school – plumbing, tiling, electronics – but there’s nothing like getting that hands-on experience on a real site.
“Visits like this are invaluable because they show the pupils what it would be like to work on a site and to do an apprenticeship. The pupils enjoyed the experience and they really loved the bricklaying.”
Despite the successful visit, Mr Rayer is concerned for the future of the course. The pupils are currently taking a WJEC level 2 qualification called Constructing the Built Environment, but this September is the last time it will be offered to pupils, with that cohort completing the course in 2025.
Mr Rayer said: “I have been doing this course for ten years, and it’s been really successful. A number of our pupils have gone on to do construction courses at Cardiff and Vale College and become apprentices in the industry.
“We have pupils from a wide catchment area, and some of them benefit more from more practical courses, so a qualification like this is ideal.
“I hope the WJEC replaces it with a course that offers similar opportunities.”