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Chris Blythe Higher education is

in such a state even the Doctor can't help

CIOB backs new entrance routes New degree apprenticeships and non-cognate conversion course

The CIOB is backing new "degree apprenticeships" that will allow new entrants to reach MCIOB level in six years, and has also launched a new Graduate Conversion Certifi cate, a nationally-recognised qualifi cation for anyone arriving in construction with a degree in a different discipline. The fi rst 80 students are set to embark on their

degree apprenticeships with a consortium of employers this September, studying three years for an HNC at a Further Education college, and a further three years to achieve a BSc at university. But Ros Thorpe, head of education at the CIOB,

believes that the new route will soon be scaled up, as other employers take up the training option that has been part of the government's "Trailblazer" scheme for employer-led training. Meanwhile, the new conversiona course for

graduates for graduates of other disciplines, which takes one to two years to complete via a training provider and involves six different modules, leads to a CIOB Level 4 Diploma in Site Management.

From there, students can then undertake either

the Professional Review or the Professional Development Programme as a path to membership. The CIOB's Ros Thorpe said: "We saw there was a

need for this course as we sit on the UKCG's training sub-group, and found contractors were talking about the high number of non-cognate graduates they employ – perhaps one in four. “We used to have a graudate development

programme for non-cognates that was delivered in universities, but it took three years. "Alternatively, non-cognates can take a Masters

conversion in construction management, but very few companies will pay for Masters now.and very few institutions offer it. 'The other option is a level 4 HNC, but that doens't give them specifi c construction management skills or use work-based assessments.”

Meet Sam Clark, future member and construction convert

Sam Clark, a new entrant to construction from the automotive industry, is one of the fi rst to enrol on the new conversion route. Construction Manager caught up with him to fi nd out how the course is going: “My fi rst degree was in

“I used to be a tiny cog in a large wheel, but in construction I can have more impact"

Sam Clark

automotive design. I spent four years at Coventry University, which lead to a placement and then a job at Jaguar. After three years at the company I needed to change. I felt like as though my career wasn’t going in the direction I’d hoped it would, and couldn’t see a future in the automotive industry. It was very scary when I

decided to move. After six months negotiation with my father, Gary Clark MCIOB who owns Clarks Construction, a main contracting company, he agreed to take me on. I handed in my notice and started working for him. I have a passion for construction

picked up from my father and had already laboured on site and seen the excitement of seeing a building go from start to fi nish. It was the satisfaction of seeing a project


through the process that attracted me to construction. At Jaguar I was a tiny cog in a large organisation, here I can have more impact. To build up my knowledge I

wanted to take a course and I was quite relieved when I found the conversion course. It suits me perfectly as its self-managed and online, so I can fi t it around my work, where I'm also learning a lot. A bonus is that as its a conversion course my original degree wasn’t wasted. I'm working full-time at the

moment so I study whenever I can fi nd time, mostly at the weekends when I try and to do a couple of 3-4 hour sessions. It is giving me a clearer picture and a wide perspective of the industry and when I graduate I'll gain more respect within the industry. After 20 years of working in

construction my father became chartered and he found what he learned very helpful, so he was really enthusiastic about me doing this course. My plan is to take the Review to gain membership of the CIOB once I fi nish the course."

You could be forgiven for thinking that the blueprint for higher education has come from the scriptwriters of Doctor Who, where nothing is as it seems. The fi rst double-take moment was

when the Labour Party proposed reducing maximum fees to £6,000. The vice-chancellors campaigned to keep the higher level, yet a few years ago were warning that increasing fees to £9,000 would kill student recruitment. Then Nick Clegg, a proponent of no

fees, admitted that the Lib Dems had overestimated the impact of the increase because record numbers of students are going to university. To compound this, the universities

are very dependent upon foreign students – and the much higher fees paid by them – to help fund the whole lot. Then you have the government trying to control the number of foreign students by including them in migration targets. This is even more bizarre when, unlike other migrants who maybe send money home, the students bring large amounts of money into the country. The upshot of all this as it affects the

construction industry is quite simple. Construction management education in university is being marginalised to the extent that it will all but disappear but for a few masters’ programmes. It is a diffi cult curriculum to deliver,

ranging from business to engineering, and needs practitioners at the heart of teaching. It’s almost impossible to hold a job now in most universities unless you have a master’s degree. This discriminates against the practitioner. The education that is taking place is

getting less and less relevant. It is not just construction management. Colleagues in other disciplines comment that graduates are very limited in what they can do, exacerbated by the fact that students want to avoid placements to make some money earlier. This brings us back to whether the

job of HE is to produce people who are job ready. In the polytechnic days that was clearly the case. Today with thousands of pounds worth of debt upon graduation it seems to me it would be a reasonable expectation. It would be ideal if we could jump into

the TARDIS, go back to the early 1980s and undo the mistakes that led to where we are now. But, as any Dr Who fan knows, that affects the space-time continuum with disastrous results. Rather let’s recognise construction management as a subject of strategic importance. Give the teaching of it a funding premium to make it fl ourish – and bring seasoned practitioners back into the teaching of it.

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