In the summer of 2019, Radius Housing, in partnership with South Eastern Regional College, launched its first Higher Level Apprentice - Trainee Asset Officer programme. This apprenticeship enables successful applicants to undertake a two-year qualification in construction while earning as they learn the trade as a Trainee Asset Officer at Radius.
As part of Northern Ireland Apprenticeship Week, we chat with Orlagh Flaherty, our first Higher Level Apprentice, about balancing work and study and her career aspirations upon completion of the course.
The ‘earn as you learn’ concept is a great benefit and hopefully there will be opportunities to progress once the apprenticeship has finished.
I was ready to get back in to education after leaving university in my second year as it wasn’t for me. I enjoyed my role as an Administration Officer in the Assets team and seeing how the Asset Officers carried out their role and thought his would be the perfect opportunity to progress within the housing industry.
My course is a two-year HNC in Construction in South Eastern Regional College at the Lisburn campus. There are four semesters and two units per semester. It is all assignment based no exams. I have just completed my first semester where I did two units - Construction Management & Construction Technology. In Construction Management I learned about Procurement, Health & Safety, CDM Regulations and BIM. In Construction Technology I learned about different choices of foundations, walls, floors & roofs for domestic, commercial & industrial buildings & site & soil investigations. My biggest learning curve so far has just been getting back in to education after such a long time and managing a workload outside of work as I have been completing multiple assignments at one time.
To be honest, I haven’t faced any problems as of yet in regards to this. Anyone I have spoken to in Construction is very keen for more females to take up roles in the sector as we are underrepresented. There are more and more women working in the construction industry and the conception that the industry is male-dominated is slowly beginning to change. I am proud to be a part of this change.
I have regular meetings with my manager to check on how I am getting on and how I am managing with college. As Radius has allowed me to take Thursdays off, this allows me to concentrate on my assignments.
Apprenticeships are fantastic opportunities for not only school leavers but also anyone looking to get back in to education and progress their career. I have recently talked to a group of GCSE students and shared with them my positive experience in an apprenticeship role, how it’s not just for craft roles such as joinery and plumbing and also to encourage girls to consider an apprenticeship in construction. I would definitely recommend an apprenticeship as it's a great way to gain a qualification whilst still working. I am really enjoying it. I am already applying what I have learnt in my course to my role as Trainee Asset Officer.
I work four days a week in Radius (Thursdays off) and I’m in college on a Tuesday & Wednesday evening 6pm – 9.30pm. At the beginning of my apprenticeship I was shadowing other Asset Officers in both Response Repairs and Servicing teams. Now I am in the planned maintenance team where I am also shadowing Asset Officers and learning the role whilst also taking charge of my own adaptation projects.
If you would like to explore the current apprenticeship opportunities available throughout Northern Ireland, please visit https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/apprenticeships.