Apprenticeship ‘as valid a choice as full time degree’

Hayden Connolly (right) with fellow apprentice Catlin Sillitoe and his project manager, Rob Bailey
Hayden Connolly (right) with fellow apprentice Catlin Sillitoe and his project manager, Rob Bailey

YOUNG people should consider an apprenticeship as an equally valid career route as a full-time degree.

So says a young Wigan man on the verge of completing a high-classification Bachelor’s degree course.

Hayden Connolly, 22, completed his A-levels at Orrell St John Rigby Sixth Form College and was initially destined for a career in accountancy. But he had an itch to try something different.

“I just didn’t want a career where I would be permanently desk-bound.” says Hayden, who found his way to the construction giant, BAM, through advice taken from a family friend.

“I went to speak to a quantity surveyor who worked for my employers, BAM Construction, and realised that there was a way to apply my mathematical ability in an avenue where I could get out into the field.”

Hayden’s ended up on BAM’s sponsorship scheme, and, five years on, is about to conclude his degree in quantity surveying which he does on a day-release basis at Salford University - while also gaining vital site experience by spending four days at BAM’s £35m A&E expansion scheme for Aintree Hospital in Liverpool.

“The BAM sponsorship scheme, which isn’t too dissimilar to an apprenticeship, has allowed me to receive higher education whilst also gaining the necessary skills in practice to help further my career.

“I’ve been involved with costing the majority of sub-contract works packages here at Aintree Hospital, from ground-works to final internal finishes. I’m also involved in the commercial management of these packages which includes carrying the accounts through to final account stage.”

Hayden has also worked on BAM projects at BAE Systems in Samlesbury, Lancashire, where he first found his feet in the industry before his involvement at Aintree Hospital. It is this experience, he says, which will assist him greatly when he eventually becomes the lead surveyor of future projects.

“My aspirations are that the BAM sponsorship scheme will help lead me to a full-time career as project quantity surveyor, with an aim to gain chartered status of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors by the end of 2016.

“I’ve also taken on a role with the Construction Industry Training Board as an ambassador for the construction industry. It means I am able to give talks and presentations to schools and colleges for example.”

Rob Bailey, BAM’s Contracts Manager, who started as an apprentice himself, said: “We have several talented young people making their way in our site team. They are the managers of the future. There is no substitute for what an apprenticeship brings. You learn skills, you gain qualifications, and you learn about people and problem-solving. It sets you on the right path, and it’s really gratifying to see Hayden develop himself so positively.”

And Hayden has a message for people considering their future after their exams this summer.

“Young people should realise how diverse this industry is. There’s such a huge spectrum of roles, and you get exposure to so many other industries too.

“It’s not a job that you get stuck in a rut with and an apprenticeship, or sponsorship, is a fantastic way to get both a career and an education.”

Hayden is hoping for first class honours when he graduates in June.