Apprentice Made in Salford

Categories: School of Science, Engineering and Environment

A student from the University of Salford is fully excelling in his apprenticeship for one of the UK’s leading construction companies. 

Nathan Gollins, a second year BSc (Hons) Quantity Surveying student at The University of Salford, is an apprentice with Manchester based contractor Russell WBHO. He is one of 22 young people undertaking the firm’s Building Student trainee programme.

The programme is a partnership between the University and Russell WBHO which launched back in 2010. It sees students learning on-the-job with the regional construction giant alongside a part-time five-year degree course to jump-start careers in the construction industry. Russell WBHO takes on around half a dozen apprentices each year and Nathan was one of the lucky few to be chosen to pursue the career he has always dreamed of.  

“I was absolutely over the moon to be accepted onto the programme,” said Nathan. “When I realised this huge construction company only took a handful of apprentices every year, I knew I had to work hard and I was so pleased when they put their faith in me and offered me a place.

“The company invests a lot in us over the five-year training programme, putting us to work on different projects in different departments to get a feel for the variety of specialisms open to us, and they really help us with our university course too, so getting a place felt like a real privilege.”

Nathan is currently working on the Municipal Buildings, a £40m heritage refurbishment project in his home city of Liverpool which will see this Grade II* listed building transformed into a four-star hotel with a spa.

Prior to this, Nathan was undertaking his engineering placements on projects in Manchester city centre, getting involved with the final stages of the 158-bedroom Premier Inn at Circle Square in Princess Street, and working on the 33-storey £85m Oxygen Towers residential development in Ancoats.

He has found the vocational experience gained on the projects to be fantastic insight into the construction industry and would encourage anyone thinking about a career in the sector to seek out an apprenticeship.

“I would say go for it,” added Nathan. “I knew the route I wanted to take, I wanted to do my degree but I also wanted to work and gain some experience. The apprentice route really gives you that extra step up, so in five years when I finish my apprenticeship I’ll not only have a degree but also five years’ worth of experience, which should stand me in good stead compared to those who have gone the degree-only route. I believe this will help me to progress within the industry, and I will have had a great time doing it.”

After his apprenticeship, Nathan is hoping to progress his career with Russell WBHO and has ambitions to eventually become a project manager.

Ian Roberts, project manager for the Municipal Buildings programme, said Nathan’s attitude and willingness to learn were making him a valued member of the team. “Nathan is very keen and eager to learn and is proving very helpful in his current role assisting the construction manager with issuing permits and overseeing sub-contractors, reviewing risk assessments, checking progress, and learning how to structure and plan future works.”

John Millward, Russell WBHO director in charge of the Building Student programme, said the partnership with the University was providing young people with an enviable opportunity. He said: “Combining theory with practice in this way gives our young people an incredibly valuable start to their careers. We have developed an excellent in-house training programme with opportunities for trainees to experience different departments and a variety of project types, and undertake necessary roles as part of a project team on a live building site. Together with what they learn at University, our students graduate well ahead of the game to become valued members of the Russells team and contribute to the continued success of our business.”

The firm is currently recruiting for the next crop of Building Student trainees. Applications are set to close in February 2021 which will see six-to-eight new trainees start work in August 2021.

For more information on the programme, you can visit the Russell WBHO website or to apply for the 2021 intake, email a CV and covering letter to: BuildingStudents2021@RussellWBHO.co.uk 

man standing in high vis jacket and hard hat

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