6th May 2022

Congratulations to Karl Drayton, our Site Supervisor, who has recently completed his Piling Attendant apprenticeship, gaining a Level 2 National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) in Piling Operations.

Karl was part of the first cohort of Piling Apprentices at Van Elle and is the first to successfully pass, with a merit grade.

As part of the Piling Attendant apprenticeship, Karl has been embedded within a piling rig gang, observing and supporting key activities such as working as a slinger/signaller, rig attendant and operating a concrete pump.

Karl has demonstrated that age isn’t a limiting factor when undertaking an apprenticeship.

At 28, Karl had several jobs including working abroad in Saudi Arabia, where he installed fittings for commercial premises, before joining Van Elle as an operative in the summer of 2018. He then enrolled on the apprentice programme, which has offered him a clear career path with long term prospects.

Karl has been undertaking the apprenticeship for the past two years, with a mix of college and onsite learning.

Studying for his qualification at Van Elle’s very own Construction Training Centre, which was enlisted to the Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers in 2019. And is now the only provider of the Piling Attendant apprenticeship standard in the country.

The Training Centre partnered with Sheffield College to provide the hands-on training for the piling elements of the scheme, covering various topics such as:

  • Carrying out basic pre-start checks and maintenance logs
  • Working safely on site
  • Manually handle loads
  • How to off load and load vehicles
  • Sling and signal the movement of loads using a variety of machinery
  • Guiding and controlling the movement and operations of piling plant, machinery, and vehicles.
  • How to correctly operate powered units, tools, machinery, and equipment specific to piling operations (e.g. concrete pumps, generators, compressors agitators, pressure washers or lighting sets)
  • Monitoring the delivery of concrete and how to take samples for testing
  • How to transport, handle, pour, position and lay concrete

Karl is currently working for our Housing division, where he has been recently promoted to Site Supervisor and is responsible for assisting in the operations and installation of precast foundations. He now hopes to guide and support new apprentices through the business.

When asked about his apprenticeship, Karl said: “I’ve really enjoyed being part of the first cohort at Van Elle to take on the Piling apprenticeship.

“My colleagues have been hugely supportive throughout, and I’ve had the opportunity to work all over the country on a variety of projects, gaining meaningful exposure to a variety of piling techniques and solutions.

“I’ve always been very hands-on rather than academic, but the apprenticeship has really helped me to develop, enabling me to learn the theory whilst putting it into practice on the job, continuously building skills along the way and gaining qualifications – passing my 360-excavator training was defiantly a highlight!

“I’ve gained more confidence and I’m more competent now. I have a vast knowledge of the principles of health and safety work practices and how they must be applied in relation to the work and to others.”

When asked what we can do as an industry to encourage more young people to consider careers in the piling and geotechnical sector, Karl said:

“I think going into schools, colleges, and universities to talk to students and provide them with information about the opportunities and various career paths available.

“This is also a great way to educate and challenge the negative misperceptions of the industry.

“It gets a bad reputation and I think over recent years, stereotypes surrounding the industry have grown.

“The idea that construction is solely a profession for the unskilled and unintelligent is a popular misconception and often, young people including myself (before I joined the industry) overlooked the fact that careers in the sector are incredibly varied.

“Often people don’t realise that many roles like working in piling can lead to high pay and an interesting future career.”

Karl has proved to be a vital member of our team and we look forward to following his journey and seeing what the future holds.

If you want to start a career in piling, like Karl, then the Piling Attendant Apprenticeship offers the perfect opportunity to be trained as a highly-skilled site operative.

We hope that reading about Karl’s experience encourages others to consider a career in our industry.

View Van Elle’s current vacancies here