Young apprentice "civil engineers" build bridges

Children from Sully Primary School have become “young apprentices” during events organised by ICE Wales Cymru to coincide with both the school’s STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) Fortnight and National Apprenticeship Week 2016.

Children at Sully Primary School show off their hard work
Children at Sully Primary School show off their hard work

The children from Year 5 donned protective hard hats, high visibility vests, gloves and goggles as part of a bridge building workshop which saw them work in teams to construct a mini replica of the Second Severn Crossing in their school hall. The teams worked together from each end of the bridge before successfully meeting in the middle. Before each team member could walk across it, however, very important safety testing had to be carried out… by sending their teachers across it first! The workshop was delivered by a team of volunteer civil engineering ambassadors on behalf of ICE Wales Cymru including a real life apprentice who has recently started his career in civil engineering.

Children at work constructing their bridge
Children at work on constructing their bridge

Joshua Short said: “I am in my first year as an apprentice engineer at Costain, working on the A465. Being an apprentice has given me the opportunity to kick start my career in the industry, and allows me to study for a qualification whilst gaining hands on experience on site 4 days a week.

“I look forward to a long and successful career in the industry and at Costain and think that my apprenticeship has put me on the path to just do that. My goals are to go to university and become a chartered engineer".

The second bridge workshop involved Year 6 pupils responding to a challenge set by a group of volunteer civil engineers from the Cardiff office of WSP PB to design a bridge to cross the River Taff at the best location to reach a new (hypothetical) park on the other side. The second part of the challenge saw the teams build the most suitable bridge design using just straws and sticky tape. The strength of each bridge was then tested using weights in a plastic cup.

Both events were a great example of civil engineering in practice and an introduction to possible careers for both boys and girls using their maths and science skills.

ICE Wales Cymru Director, Keith Jones, said:

“A high quality engineering apprenticeship is a gateway to a diverse and rewarding career which can result in young men and women reaching the top. ICE welcomes aspiring professional engineers and technicians on apprenticeships into our membership and supports them throughout their career progression.

“The political support for new apprenticeships, and the growing interest from employers is promising. But quality is the key here – schemes must be set to rigorous standards so apprentices are equipped to progress on the career ladder and go onto achieve a recognised professional qualification. It is also important that schools are properly resourced with careers guidance so young people are aware of all the engineering career paths available to them.

“In the decade to 2022, engineering companies will need 182,000 people a year with engineering skills – this means we need to double the number of apprentices and graduates entering the industry. Such is the scale of the challenge we face, and this is why collaborative, inspirational workshops in schools are so important.

“Civil engineering is a fascinating and rewarding career and it is a delight and pleasure to work with pupils at schools to show them how civil engineers design, build and support the infrastructure of Wales.”

The workshops could not have taken place without the team of both male and female civil engineers from Alun Griffiths (Contractors) Ltd, BAMNuttal, Dawnus; University of Wales Treforest; Costain, Willmott Dixon and WSP PB.

Sully School had a number of visitors to speak to the children during their STEM fortnight including Chartered Engineer and Member of ICE Paul Blackman CEng MICE, Technical Director of Wallingford HydroSolutions Ltd who gave a talk about civil engineering and flooding issues to Years 4 and 5.

Find out more about Bridges to Schools in Wales