Working North East

Author - Helen Cartwright

Date published:

As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, it will be more important than ever for the North East to work together to ensure that all people in the region can enter high quality education, employment or training.

The Chamber is working hard to connect businesses and education providers. We believe that bridging this gap and encouraging the creation of meaningful work placements and career opportunities is key to ensuring that businesses have access to the skills they need to grow.

The Chamber’s flagship Linking Business with Education event brings together regional employers. Colleges, schools and independent training providers to create links and to brainstorm ideas for how we can all work better together to create opportunities for young people.

Case Study – Tilbury Douglas

A great example of creating a working North East and how the Chamber can connect people is the development of two young employees by construction company Tilbury Douglas, who study at New College Durham.

Savanah Benwell, 20 from Stanley and Jack Walker 23 of Neville’s Cross had placements on Durham University’s £80m Mount Oswald scheme, part of its 10 year development plan and Tilbury Douglas’ largest North East project at the time.

The connection was a result of Mark Gardham Regional Director of Tilbury Douglas meeting senior management from New College Durham at a Chamber meeting and the relationship developed from there.

From a young age, Savanah knew that her career aspirations lay in construction, but it was engineering in particular that sparked her interest. Following success in her GCSEs, Savanah enrolled at New College Durham to study a BTEC Extended Diploma in Construction and the Built Environment, to give her a broad overview of the industry. It was during this course, Savanah was offered a 6-week work placement with the Tilbury Douglas team as part of a T Level Industry Placement pilot.

David Dixon, Contract Manager said: “Her work ethic, dedication and enthusiasm during her placement impressed our team so much that at the end of the 6-weeks, we encouraged her to join our apprenticeship scheme and become a permanent member of staff here at Tilbury Douglas.

“Since then, Savanah has gone from strength to strength and even our first excellent impressions of her capability have been far surpassed.”

Her colleague Jack Walker had an interest in construction from a very young age, and initially enrolled to study joinery at college but part way through the course, realised it wasn’t the right career for him.

Knowing that he still wanted to work in the construction industry, Jack explored alternative career options which were more office based. When he completed the first year of his joinery course, he transferred over to a BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Construction and the Built Environment at New College Durham.

During his second year, Jack was also offered a placement with the Tilbury Douglas site team at the Mount Oswald Student Accommodation site. He attended college one week and worked on site the next before transferring to work in the Stockton office for three months to learn more about the office-based roles. While there, Jack made a real impression on the team with his enthusiasm and dedication to the industry. So, when an apprenticeship opportunity arose for a trainee estimator to join the team on a permanent basis, Jack was the first person the team thought of.

Both of their experiences have put Savanah and Jack in a great position to build their careers.

Having worked hard to complete her BTEC, Savanah has progressed to now study a Level 4 (HNC) and Level 5 (HND) Diploma in Civil Engineering and alongside this, is studying a Level 5 NVQ in Construction Management. Not only has Savanah managed to complete her studies (achieving excellent marks to date), she has also worked full time, away from home and extended her knowledge by shadowing other team members. She has even taken the time to mentor a new trainee engineer and take a lead in Tilbury Douglas’s approach to sustainability and adoption of new technologies.

Since completing the works on Mount Oswald, Savanah moved to a new project in Redcar, delivering a high-quality and robust new school for children with special educational needs. Savanah’s role with the project team, where she worked to successfully overcome a number of design challenges on the school, was approached with maturity and professionalism far ahead of her years said her manager at Tilbury Douglas.

Savanah is currently working on a new project for the University of York, delivering a challenging new facility for the Institute for Safe Autonomy (ISA). She is working directly to support a senior engineer and is responsible for setting out and coordinating the build; a vital element which must be accurate. Savanah has approached this extra responsibility as she has every other challenge in her role, with a positive ‘can do’ attitude and the confidence to get the job done.

Savanah’s capacity for work is outstanding. Her positivity at work is infectious and in just a few short years, she has become an integral and highly valued member of the Tilbury Douglas project team.

Her goal is to complete her studies and gain a degree in Civil Engineering. From this, she is focused on gaining further experience in engineering, to then develop in a Senior Engineer role.

Jack is having similar success and has fully embraced the opportunity and joined the Tilbury Douglas team in Stockton to work alongside the Estimator and Estimating Manager, attending college one day a week to continue his studies working towards a Level 5 HND in Construction Management. 

Starting his role with very little knowledge of estimating, Jack has committed himself 100% to learning everything he can. He is a key part of the busy estimating department and has undertaken every task with an exceptional aptitude and produces an incredibly high level of work. Jack has learnt how to use Conquest and A-Site software and now takes full responsibility for maintaining the estimating library of work. He is confident to now make accompanied site visits to understand any project risks and considers these within the tender proposals.

Alongside his role, Jack has spent time with other members of Tilbury Douglas to learn more about design management and the quantity surveying roles. He understood the QS’s role so well that, during staff holidays, Jack has even stepped in to help the commercial team.

Jack confidently liaises with the supply chain to develop the best price for bids, and always approaches this with confidence, courtesy and professionalism, something which has been noted by many external parties.

Jack has developed so well in his role, that he was recently solely responsible for the pricing of a £1million project. A real testament to his progress and ability.

Jack is keen to pass on his positive experience to support local college students and has worked closely with the CIOB, attending the Hartlepool College Apprentice Week alongside other Tilbury Douglas colleagues.

Robert Ainscough Estimating Manager from Tilbury Douglas said: “He is a supportive member of the team, always willing to put in the extra effort to his work and develop his own knowledge. He is committed to be the best he can, and progress as far as possible in the estimating role.”

Tilbury Douglas is a leading UK building, infrastructure, engineering and fit out company. It delivers projects across a range of sectors including health, education, pharmaceutical, advanced manufacturing, justice, defence and workspace.

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