Morgan Sindall Construction

Megan MacDonald Graduate Apprentice

In this case study we hear from Megan MacDonald, a GA student on our BSc (Hons) Construction and the Built Environment about working as a trainee construction technician with Morgan Sindall Construction.

We also hear from David Lannigan, Megan's workplace mentor.

Please explain how you got your placement and outline what you were doing before your graduate apprenticeship.  

I found my trainee construction technician position on Morgan Sindall Construction's website and applied for my position through this.

Prior to being offered my position I worked in England as a paint inspector inspecting structural steelwork before, during and after the steelwork had been coated with the required protective coating.  During my time as a paint inspector I worked on many interesting projects. My favourite project was based inside the Thames Barrier in London where my role was to inspect the refurbishment works which were being carried out.

Learning in class is extremely beneficial but learning on the job helps give a wider knowledge base.

Megan MacDonald, Graduate Apprentice

During my employment as an inspector, I also attended college to gain more experience and knowledge of structural steel. Upon completion of this course, I then applied and was accepted for a position at Heriot-Watt as a full time construction management student. It was when I was studying at university that I applied for my current role.

What were the benefits of the graduate apprenticeship programme that attracted you the most?

The main benefit which attracted me to the graduate apprenticeship programme was being able to gain site and office-based experience whilst being able to carry out my degree.

Please describe what you are employed to do and how you have coped with the challenges of learning new skills whilst studying towards a degree.

As a trainee construction technician these are the jobs I have been employed to do:

  • Assisting management to ensure the construction project proceeds efficiently in accordance with the programme and within budget.
  • Undertaking dimensional control activities onsite.
  • Supervising sub-contract labour and co-ordinating activities of all trades on site.
  • Assisting with the implementation of processes for creating a safe working environment in  achieving Morgan Sindall Construction's 100% Safe goal, including pre-start inductions and daily briefings.
  • Undertaking regular site inspections, ensuring customer quality standards are achieved through compliance within construction drawings and specifications.
  • Ensuring working methods are performed correctly.
  • Complying with the site managers' responsibilities as laid down in the Health and Safety and Environmental policy.
  • At all times compling with Morgan Sindall Construction's company policies, procedures, and instructions.
  • Implementing new ideas and methods and seeking ways to both contribute to the company's goals and enhance its reputation.

The above is only a brief scope of what I can be involved with in a weekly basis.

There have been a lot of challenges juggling both university and work commitments. To cope with this, I manage my time by creating a schedule of what needs to be completed and by when. Whilst creating this schedule to manage my time I also make sure to set a word count for my portfolios, this ensures that I can complete my work on time.

What is your proudest achievement to date in your role and can you explain how this impacted on your working environment and or helped deliver results on behalf of your organisation?

My proudest achievement to date in my role was carrying out my first site induction on my own. This was due to the confidence this gave me and made me proud that I was informing the sub-contractors of procedures to keep them safe and got to explain Morgan Sindall Construction's strategy to keep everyone 100% safe. Giving an induction has helped to achieve the 100% safe goal, as on my current site we have had no accidents or incidents to date.

What are your future career hopes and goals on completion of the graduate apprenticeship? Please explain how you think this will differ if you had gone via the traditional route of achieving a degree via a full-time undergraduate programme.

My future career goals are to learn as much about construction projects and how they all differ, this will help me gain more knowledge to help me achieve my goal of being a planner. If I had continued studying in the traditional route of getting my degree, my knowledge level of construction projects would be limited.

Being able to gain more experience of problems and challenges that occur onsite gives me first-hand experience of understanding how to overcome these.

Learning in class is extremely beneficial but learning on the job helps give a wider knowledge base.

Please give a quote to sum up your overall experience of the graduate apprenticeship programme.

Enjoyable but challenging learning experience.

David Lannigan, Morgan Sindall Construction

What are the key reasons why the graduate apprentice model suits your business or industry?

The graduate apprentice is a cost-effective and efficient way to attract new talent to our business, and to develop our existing workforce.

Our apprentices develop the skills and experience needed to add value to our business.  As employers, we play a part in shaping the content and supporting our staff throughout the duration of the apprenticeship. We can provide the practical activities that will help to embed the apprentices learning experience.

Our industry faces daily challenges, and we need a highly trained and motivated workforce to improve productivity and maintain quality on our projects.  The graduate apprenticeship model offers us a way to grow and sustain our business, develop a talented workforce, and prevent future skills gaps.

What appealed to you most about Heriot Watt University as the GA provider?

We have had a successful relationship with Heriot-Watt University, through a career mentoring programme, for several years.  When we were sourcing a provider for our graduate apprenticeship programme, we attended events to find out more about the model and how it would operate.

The University impressed us with its enthusiasm for the programme and a structured, well thought out approach to delivery.

In what way has the candidate made a contribution to the workplace or business?

Megan has a made a positive contribution to the Broomhills Primary School project team already. From undertaking site safety inductions and inspections through to assisting in quality control inspections, she has shown a desire to learn and to take on responsibility for activities. She is also learning to use our integrated management system and the necessary records that are required to be kept and has taken part in the document control and management of the approval and distribution of drawings

How do you feel about the apprentice's future? 

From the initial impressions of how Megan has embraced the apprenticeship and her enthusiasm to learn, by maintaining this throughout her career, we are confident she can achieve whatever career goal she sets herself.

Based on your experience of the graduate apprenticeship programme would you happily employ another graduate apprentice in the future? 

Yes, most definitely. For several years, we have been looking for further education providers to align their courses with the actual needs of our industry. The graduate apprenticeship Programme does this but also allows for greater collaboration with the education provider with regards to the student's performance. It also puts a greater emphasis on us as an employer implementing a career mentoring scheme, as the programme very much encourages the business to shape the apprentice pathway whilst using the structured learning pathway of the education provider.