• slider_1.jpg
  • RenewOnline.jpg
  • slider_2.jpg
  • IOC-Banner.jpg

West Suffolk College

In the second of our interviews with lecturers at IOC member colleges, we talk to Brian Tunbridge, Carpentry & Joinery Lecturer at West Suffolk College, about employment prospects in Suffolk and what employers are looking for in potential employees.

Brian Tunbridge has been teaching carpentry & joinery for over 20 years and has seen employers’ needs change over time: “Today employers are looking for your people to dress more smartly than in the past. Many firms market their services with corporate logos, signage on vans and they wear clothing promoting their business. It therefore pays to look as smart as you can, given the working context, when you meet them,” he says.

“At West Suffolk College, we send students out to do work experience with local firms to give them an idea of what it’s like in the trade, and to also give prospective employers a chance to see the student in action. As a result, we get a few firms offering to take the student on as an apprentice so they can continue their studies and also work part-time. This is great for their careers as they’re gaining experience all the time,” West Suffolk College’s Brian Tunbridge continues.

He adds: “Employers are not just looking for a good work ethic and someone who turns up on time. They’re looking to see if you’re genuinely interested in the job and in what’s going on around you. They want someone who’s as keen to pick up a broom and help out as they are to be doing the actual work: they want an all-rounder, as that’s what you have to be in this business.”

Students also have to look at how they come across personally, Brian Tunbridge says: “Apprentices used to mostly be aged around 16: these day’s they’re now 16-25 year olds. That means younger students are competing for opportunities with those who are slightly older and have a bit more life experience. Coming across that you’re keen but also that you have a good bit of common sense will stand you in good stead,” he affirms.

And what are employers looking for in Suffolk and East Anglia in particular? “We have a lot of heritage properties across Suffolk and East Anglia. These present students with some great opportunities to work on really fascinating jobs. At West Suffolk College we’ve introduced additional courses on aspects of heritage construction work, such as traditional Oak framing, which give students an extra certificate to add to their portfolio of achievements.”

What advice would Brian Tunbridge give to students on their way to qualifying and starting out in the trade? “Make sure you give yourself say 5 years’ working with an employer before you even consider going it alone and starting your own business. You need to clock up a good deal of experience before taking the plunge and working tor yourself,” he concludes.

Image: West Suffolk College joinery student Alex Howe has been selected for the UK Squad competing in the next World Skills competition due to be held in China in 2022.


transparent gif