Vocational courses are great for transitioning straight after college into a defined career. Construction crafts is one of those subjects where the majority of students enter employment, usually through Apprenticeships, directly after qualifying at college. Being thrust into the world of work is not easy for any 18 year old.
This is why it is so important for practical and theoretical study in vocational courses to match closely the experience of being on the job. RuTC Site Carpentry teacher Damien McCabe is dedicated to doing this and has seen excellent results.
‘I always keep up to date with and teach my students about current building requirements and the latest materials and sustainable products used in design by architects,’ says Damien. ‘It is important for my students to be familiar with the problems that might arise while using those materials.’ Damien keeps his knowledge current by subscribing to construction weekly magazines, speaking to builders, visiting building sites often and continually working on his own CPD site project involvement. He says he has more tools at home now than during the 35 years he spent working full-time in the field due to construction industry demands. This allows him to show the students a wide range of different tool techniques.
Damien and his students built a two-story workshop within the college as a year-long project. They used timber framing as it is now more commonly used in the industry combined with solid brickwork incorporating sustainable insulation such as, recycled paper and lamb’s wool. To inspire his capentry students, he showed them innovative examples of timber structures including, a seven story building in London made entirely with wood. This is the future of sustainable architecture as more and more buildings in major cities are being constructed using new methods including engineered timber material.
To give every student a turn at working on the different parts of the project, Damien had them construct and reconstruct the workshop areas several times. He made the experience even more realistic by getting every student to write down the task they were working on that week and a set deadline for finishing it. From this they developed strong time-management and productivity skills and will not be shocked when they are given strict deadlines in their first job.
‘I also like to incorporate some of the older traditions so that when the students are renovating old houses [in their future jobs], they know exactly what to do,’ says Damien. ‘I try to come up with every way possible to prepare them for the challenges they might meet on the job.’
Damien’s students have not only developed an astute awareness of sustainable construction, they have also reported high levels of satisfaction with the course, are all predicted to pass and some have secured Apprenticeships, for which they will be very well prepared.
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