Kate and apprentice Abby, on a construction site, wearing high visibility jackets and hard hats
Kate and apprentice Abby, on a construction site, wearing high visibility jackets and hard hats

Kate put herself in the shoes of a local apprentice – specifically steel toe cap boots – as she spent time on a Manchester construction site to experience a day in the life of a degree apprentice.

As part of National Apprenticeship Week, Kate was invited by Trafford Park-based Russells Construction to shadow quantity surveying degree-level apprentice, Abby Norton. Abby, who attended Flixton Girls’ School, is currently in her third year of a five-year degree apprenticeship at the University of Salford.

Abby showed Kate the ropes at the NOMA regeneration project in city centre Manchester, where Abby is currently working, and took the MP on a tour of the various projects that she has managed on the site. This includes the £34m refurbishment of the Grade II-listed Hanover building, which recently won Building Conservation Project of the Year at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors North West Awards.

Kate also met with Russells Commercial Director, Nick Sunderland, who talked about the Russells Construction ‘Building Excellence’ programme. Delivered in partnership with the University of Salford, Russells Construction has developed its own pre-graduate training programme to provide a range of opportunities in the construction industry.

Recruiting from local schools, Russells Construction is now taking on around seven or eight young people a year and putting them through the quantity surveying or construction management degree-level apprenticeship with the University of Salford. The company employs around 40 degree apprentices at present.

Degree apprenticeships allow students to get a full bachelor’s or master’s degree while working, with tuition fees paid for by the employer and with the student earning a salary. Combining academic study with on-the-job training, they bring together the best of higher and vocational education.

Following the visit, Abby said: “It was great to get the chance to show Kate what it’s like being a degree apprentice. I’m three years in with two left to go and I absolutely love it. Some of my friends have gone down the traditional university route, which is right for them, but I know that this is right for me. It’s hard work and challenging as you’re juggling work with university study, but I know that it will be worth it in the end.”

Kate said: “I was incredibly impressed by Abby. The responsibility she’s been given at this stage in her career by Russells is fantastic. She’s working on some really high profile and high value construction projects, and she’s handling it with real passion and total professionalism. It’s clear that degree apprenticeships offer young people a vital opportunity to get into the world of work and get their hands dirty, whilst also gaining that important academic qualification.”

Adele Lochman, Degree Apprenticeship Business Development Lead at the University of Salford, said: “Russells are a brilliant employer to work with and we’re glad that we could show Kate how the business is really investing in young people through its ‘Building Excellence’ programme. At the University of Salford we’re delighted to work with a company that is so committed to developing that future pipeline of talent.”

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