A housing association is laying the foundations for high school pupils to enter their dream careers in the world of construction.
Six year 10 pupils from Ysgol Dyffryn Conwy, Llanrwst, learned an array of new skills while transforming a formerly disused courtyard in the school grounds.
They enthusiastically rolled up their sleeves and turned the once grey unadorned area of paving into an attractive outdoor gathering space and outdoor classroom with bespoke modern seating.
The innovative vocational project was led by construction and landscaping experts from Cartrefi Conwy and its sister organisation, Creating Enterprise, who have forged an ongoing relationship with Ysgol Dyffryn Conwy.
Cartrefi Conwy Environment and Landscape Manager Matt Stowe partnership developed following a nearby £4.3 million makeover of Llanrwst’s Glanrafon estate, now renamed Rhoda Phil Evans, in memory of a popular local caretaker who died suddenly three years ago.
Matt said: “It is Cartrefi Conwy policy to give something extra back to the community in any area where we undertake major new building work or redevelopment.
“Here in Llanrwst we believed the best way to do that was by working on some practical and educational projects with the school which is at the very heart of the community.”
Assistant head, Jason Turner, and Inclusion teacher Gerallt Hughes, were both hugely impressed by the high standard of the teenage task force’s work.
Mr Turner said: “Their enthusiasm has been admirable from start to finish and the work they have done here will benefit our school for many years to come, being much appreciated by upcoming generations of new pupils who will follow in their hard-working footsteps.”
Gerallt Hughes added: “We are very proud of them all. They have each put their heart and soul into this project and come up with a masterful finished product.”
In an important follow-up to the courtyard facelift all the pupils involved will next term be armed with vital building bricks needed to give them a head start in the construction sector when they leave school.
Cartrtefi Conwy Community Impact Officer Barbara Roberts said: “As a social housing organisation we always have our eyes firmly trained on the wellbeing of the communities we work with and in this instance we recognised there was a great opportunity to help the younger generation achieve some of their ambitions and dreams.
“Not only have they been able to learn new hands-on skills from the design and build elements of this courtyard revamp but next year we will be back in the school to deliver a Passport to Construction course for these same pupils. We will take them through the paces needed to secure their Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card as they come up to age 16.
“Once they get these it will put them immediately in a more advantageous position as they will be able to approach builders and construction companies for jobs or apprenticeship places, already having their CSCS card in their armoury.”
The card is required by all firms in the construction sector before any worker can enter a building or development site.
The six pupils – Sion Roberts, Isaac Davies, Gruff Davies, Tomos Fedrick (correct), Harri Lloyds and Dafydd Edwards – all hope to one day find careers in the construction industry.
All aged 15, they said they enjoyed designing and building six benches, each large enough to comfortably seat six adults, and underpinned by rustic gabions – cages filled with rocks.
Sion said: “It was good because we were involved in each different stage of the process, from the very start when we had to think of an idea for the area, through the design process and the building work itself.”
Isaac added: “Doing things step by step like this and undertaking the practical work gave us a better idea of how things work on a commercial construction site and the kind of skills which are required in the industry.”
The team also spent a day at the Creating Enterprise factory in Rhyl and completed a manual handling training course.
Creating Enterprise joinery expert Adam Chance and Timber Solutions Operator Liam Curzon both praised the team’s eagerness to learn and their attention to detail throughout the project.
Adam said: “They have been a pleasure to work alongside, working as a team throughout and there is a great rapport between them all. That makes a big difference in our industry. The ability to adapt to any changes in a plan, respect each other and recognise that we all have our individual skills is what helps make a project succeed.”
He also thanked property consultants Savills for sponsoring and sourcing supplies needed to complete the courtyard transformation.
Matt Stowe added: “Savills were a big help on a materials front and we all want to send them a big thank you for that.
“As for the pupils, they were an absolute credit to themselves and their school. The description which springs to my mind when I watch them get to grips with any task is ‘polite, interested and hard-working’. I am sure any construction firm would be glad to welcome them as part of their team.”
The pupils’ parents are being invited into a school engagement event to see the finished courtyard, and a plan is also now in hand to have a commemorative plaque made for the area accrediting the group for all their efforts.