Budding Brunels

Budding Brunels is a schools engagement programme aimed at informing and inspiring students about higher education and career options within the construction industry. The course gives students a unique chance to gain first-hand knowledge of how the industry works as well as the opportunity to gain valuable work experience.

Over the course of a 3-day workshop, students are given presentations from different construction professionals, visit a site and also a university or technology centre. For students who excel during the workshop, work placements are also available providing valuable experience that may be used to enhance UCAS applications and future employability. Through Budding Brunels we aim to open up the doors to new opportunities for young people and help them overcome barriers to secure education, training or employment in construction.

A day in the life
Our day started trying to find the way to Wilditch Community centre in the heart of a Battersea. Upon arrival we were greeted by a classroom of 15-18 year olds, all of whom were from varying schools and backgrounds. It was a little strange to be called Sir at first, so after a small request to be addressed by our first names, everyone felt a little easier.

Morning Session – Water over the bridge
The morning was a team building bridge construction exercise, as quantity surveyors and project managers, our knowledge of tension bridges and tensile strength was limited, however we were able to apply the basic principles of the exercise. We assisted the students with creating an initial design, costing the building materials and producing a bridge worthy of holding a full bottle of water!

It was nice to see a range of personalities shining through, all showing different characteristics, some were business minded looking into the material costs, others were the creative types who produced different designs and then we had the practical students who were thinking how it would be built. Our input was centred around helping the students think about the project brief requirements and incorporating these within a feasibility appraisal before rushing in and building something that didn’t meet the criteria or wasn’t practical.

Throughout the morning we would be talking with the students, giving them examples of our experiences and how these could be incorporated into the exercise, the different projects we’ve worked on, how we ended up doing the job we do and the most important question – how much money can you earn?!

Mid-session – Site visit to location planning
After the bridge building exercise, the students were given a task of plotting out location plans for the Battersea Reach site of which they had visited the previous day.

Within the site boundaries, the students were to allocate certain amounts of social and private residential, offices, retail and various other building uses within the space.

As it started off as an individual exercise there were some creative/outrageous ideas which looked more like Palm Islands, Dubai rather than Battersea, but again it was interesting to see how they made use of the site. In groups they decided on a final site plan and drew a large scale version which they were to present to other industry professionals the following day, explaining their ideas in detail.

Lunchtime arrived, each student was given £5 to go and buy lunch. After lunch the students worked on their site plans and mood boards for the concepts they wanted to put forward for their master plans. Again, great creativity and professionalism was shown in conveying their thoughts and ideas no matter how farfetched they were.

Afternoon Session – mock stakeholder consultation
The final part of the day was a mock consultation meeting role play with students representing the differing stakeholders who would be affected by the Battersea Reach development. From project managers working on the scheme to local residents and business owners, the students put forward some convincing arguments from every angle and really assumed their roles and understood the disadvantages and benefits of such a large project. Our input was to pass comment on the thoughts put forward and compare these to what we have experienced within our working careers.

The day as a whole was fulfilling and enlightening to be part of and we were definitely surprised with some of the ideas and understanding of the students. At the end of the day, we were approached by 3 extra keen students who were interested in what we did and wanted to ask more probing questions about life at John Rowan and Partners and the industry. As they still appeared interested after telling them what we did on a day to day basis, we gave them our contact details and told them to get in contact with regards to work experience and future opportunities.

Our commitment to future talent

Thirteen of John Rowan and Partners employees spent some of their time over the 3 days volunteering, on the second day we had three employees spent the whole day with the students.