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County Durham

Continuing our series, we talk to Bill Kirkbright, IOC College Liaison Officer at Derwentside College, about what employers are looking for in Carpentry & Joinery students in County Durham and the wider region. 

Derwentside may be a college in a semi-rural area but its connections to employers range from employers using modern methods of construction (offsite construction), to joinery workshops creating bespoke work for clients: “Demand for carpenters and joiners is high in the area: we often have more opportunities with employers than we have suitable students to fill them,” Bill Kirkbright reveals. 

Site carpentry

“One of the major projects in the area needing site carpentry skills is the development of an ex-steelworks site into newbuild estates,“ Derwentside College’s Bill Kirkbright continues. “It’s likely to take around 8 years to build all the housing necessary for this massive development in Consett. It’s interesting to see the development of skills for this sector, which are based around efficiency of housing production,” he comments. “Site carpenters still need to get a range of experience of both first and second fix as there’s no standard approach at present.

“At the other end of the scale, we have a lot of heritage buildings in the area and working with Historic England, there are opportunities for young people to get involved. Such work can involve complex geometry but it’s certainly interesting,” Bill Kirkbright says.

Bench joinery

“Bench joiners in our area can expect to be doing bespoke work, possibly handling hardwoods, or working on barn doors, window frames or arch-headed doors.

“Employers are looking for transferable skills whichever part of the construction sector they’re in. They’re looking for people who are reliable, turn up on time, show an interest in what they’re doing, and are not on their phone all the time. Construction is becoming ever more ‘professional’ so you have to be professional in how you present yourself, and how you deal with and talk to other people,” Bill adds.  “In Germany, carpenters are recognised as professionals and some get paid as much as lawyers!

“Our Apprenticeships Business Development team maintains relationships with lots of local employers. We have a constant rolling start programme for apprentices which gives employers flexibility. We’re expanding the college as we’re getting growing demand for apprentices. It’s a good time to be studying carpentry & joinery,” Derwentside College’s Bill Kirkbright affirms.     

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