Out-of-work people in Cambridgeshire have hit the road to a new career – thanks to the £1.5 billion revamp of the A14.
The massive construction scheme is now three months in, and as road crews push ahead, a group of jobseekers have been working alongside them.
They have been given the chance to do a ‘pre-apprenticeship’ course, the first step towards getting employment in the construction industry.
A spokeswoman for Highways England, which is spearheading the road rebuild, said: “The course, based at the West Anglia Training Association-run Highways Academy, was designed to give the group a set of basic skills required to become an apprentice or gain a job on a variety of road construction projects.
“Skills developed included working with plant machinery on an A14 mock-up road section, health and safety awareness on a construction site and CV and interviewing skills.
“And as an added bonus, all those who successfully completed the course were interviewed at the end of it for a chance to get an apprenticeship placement or a job with one of the contractors working on the A14, including earthworks companies Blackwell and Walters and traffic management specialist HW Martin.”
Aaron Blankley, 38, from Bluntisham, signed up to the course to regain his independence and some financial security after having to rely on his family for two years due to health issues. He said: “I have some experience working with construction plant and equipment but I’ve never had formal training. This course is not like a lot of the training courses I have been on – I know there are real jobs at the end of it”
Leigh Evans, 45, from Huntingdon, joined the course to kick-start a career. He said “This project will give me the opportunity to get a job where I can have longer-term security and the chance to develop further thanks to ongoing training.”
Daryl Simms-Johnstone, 28, from Somersham, saw this course as his way into a new career after leaving the armed forces.
“I am really keen to get involved with plant and use the skills I developed driving tanks while I was in the army. I have worked on construction sites before but this course will allow me to access more jobs and better pay.”
Aaron, Leigh and Daryl successfully completed the course, and Aaron was offered a role as a trainee foreman, Leigh was offered an apprenticeship and Daryl was offered a role as a trainee plant operative.
Another 10 people were also offered jobs or apprenticeships at the end of the course.
Gerard Smith, legacy lead for the A14 scheme at Highways England said: “The A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme is Highways England’s biggest project currently in construction. We want to give people the opportunity to help us deliver this complex project and gain a career for life as a result. So it makes good sense for us to offer unemployed people locally the chance to learn while they earn via training courses and apprenticeship programmes.
“The construction sector is growing and with Highways England committed to delivering a £15 billion government investment in our motorways and major A-roads by 2021, gaining the right skills now will open the doors to secure jobs, better pay and career progression. I am delighted that this pilot programme has already enabled some of our contractors to recruit apprenticeships and jobs on the A14 scheme and I would encourage anyone interested in a construction career to find out more about future opportunities now.”
To find out more about apprenticeships and training opportunities on the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon scheme, visit the agency’s website
A new mobile visitor centre for the A14 project will make its first appearance on Wednesday (March 15) at Tesco Bar Hill, to give people the opportunity to find out the latest on the scheme and ask questions. The centre will be in the car park from 9.15am to 1pm.