Friday 3rd February 2017


Sherford Skills Training Scheme Coordinator, Steven Ricketts, talks about his role in the development of the new town, how the scheme is helping to address the industry skills gap, and the bright future that lies ahead for apprentices learning on-site.

1. How did you become involved with the Sherford Skills Training Scheme, and what attracted you to the role?

I saw an advert for the role of Coordinator, and I knew immediately that it was the job for me. It was a fantastic opportunity to get involved with a really important scheme, and what could be better than being a part of a whole new town? It’s not the type of opportunity that comes around every day.

2. Tell us a bit about your experience before landing the role.

My background is in apprenticeships, and helping get people who have been long-term unemployed back into work. As well as my role as Skills Training Scheme Coordinator, I am also currently the Plymouth City Councillor for the Drake Ward, which covers the Mutley and Greenbank areas.

3. What does your job entail on a day to day basis, and what do you enjoy about it the most?

The best thing about it is that there is no such thing as a typical day! It’s a very varied role. One day, I might be visiting schools and talking to teachers about the Skills Training Scheme and the opportunities it brings for students, and another, I’ll be meeting electrical sub-contractors, or writing bids. I’m out and about a lot, and am always making sure that Sherford remains at the top of everyone’s agendas.

4. Your role incorporates both education and construction. What do you feel is the best way to get an education in construction?

For young people looking for a way into construction, taking up relevant modules at school is a good place to start. Looking at colleges in the local area is the next step; City College Plymouth, for example, has a huge construction department in partnership with South Devon College, and regularly places students onto apprenticeships such as those available at Sherford.

5. What has been your proudest moment in the role so far?

My proudest moment is definitely yet to come, and it will be seeing the Sherford development fulfil its potential when it is finally complete. But up until this point, I have been extremely proud to work with the various people on site, and to be a part of such a truly special project.

6. What do you see as the main benefits for the apprentices currently on site at Sherford?

Getting into the trade at a young age will set them up for the future, and they will be in a great position to learn from the experienced men and women working on site. Hands on experience is a great way to learn, and being able to earn while they do so is a huge bonus.

7. Who should consider applying for the scheme?

Anyone from any age, Male or female, should consider applying – It is something school leavers especially should be thinking about, but whatever your age, it is never too late to make a change in your career. 120,000 new apprentices nationwide are needed by 2018.

8. Why might the scheme appeal to those thinking of retraining or looking for work in a new career?

There are 15 years of work in the pipeline on this project alone. There is good money to be made in the construction sector and many exciting career opportunities. Research shows Construction will grow 2.5% every year for the next 5 years across the country.

9. What part do you feel the scheme is playing in helping to address the skills gap facing the South West’s construction industry?

There is certainly a skills gap, but the great thing is that schemes like this are going a long way towards addressing it. Colleges in the region are doing their utmost to upskill young people, to ensure that the skills required to finish projects as large as Sherford are there.

It’s also really important that school pupils are made aware of all the other opportunities available to them in the field – so, the perhaps less obvious jobs, like surveyors and town planners. Many people simply don’t know enough about the choices that are out there, and it is our role to ensure that that changes.

10. How can the Skills Training Scheme help young people (and others!) to kick start their careers, and what does the future hold for them?

As time goes on, we’ll be getting more and more apprentices onto the site to learn hands-on – and we’ll have them working on every element of the project – from doing the plumbing to installing the kitchens.

The great thing about the apprenticeships at Sherford is that there are a number of years of work ahead – so as well as learning on site, the opportunity is there to continue working here well into the future, and to be a part of something really special from start to finish. Not only that, but our current apprentices may well be the ones who find themselves living at Sherford in the future. They’ve got bright futures ahead of them.

11. What is your next goal for the Skills Training Scheme?

I want to make Sherford the best, top-level option for learning construction-related trades, and make sure we are providing the full toolkit of industry skills. The men and women currently working on site are highly experienced, and many have been in the industry for years, so there really are no better people to learn from.