Pursue your passions and reap the rewards

After finishing school in Jamaica, Orville made the decision to uproot his life and move to the UK to be with his wife. But in doing that, he’s been able to pursue his passion for construction and get stuck into the UK industry. 

Making the move

After completing my education in Jamaica, I wanted to expand my skills by learning carpentry, masonry, tiling, steel fixing and plumbing. So I worked informally gaining skills on the job, without any formal construction training, until I joined the Byrne Bros Formwork Level 2 apprenticeship programme, when I moved to the UK. I wanted to move here so I could be with my wife, and because I had construction experience in Jamaica, it made sense to me to continue the trade that I know and love.  

Before joining the Byrne Bros apprenticeship, I had done some painting and decorating. But for me, I felt like this wasn’t the career path for me. I did some work experience with Byrne Bros, and it made me realise that construction is a sector that can offer me long term career satisfaction and stability in my chosen part of it.

It was important for me to look for a career that would enable me to study and earn at the same time without taking up a loan to finance my studies. The Byrne Bros Apprenticeship scheme enabled me to do just that and combining theory with practice makes it faster for me to learn. Plus, it makes it easier for me when it comes to collecting the evidence for my NVQ portfolio.

I don’t get bored

As a formwork apprentice my role is to work as part of the team, under the guide of my site supervisor, to complete the daily tasks set by the construction manager. These tasks could be anything from making shutters or panels to making columns, walls and upstands etc. I’ll use ply as well for various jobs, including some stairwells I’ve worked on recently using the Stairmaster system.

Things change all the time on a site, so there’s no such thing as a ‘typical’ working day. There’ll be lots of different stages to a project, each with a specific deadline, so it’s important to make the most of your time, so I’ll get to site around 7 am to start work at 7:30 am.

We start that day with a site briefing where the site supervisor tells the teams what work needs to be completed by the end of that day or week. And this could be anything - from striking, cleaning the shutters to general housekeeping.

Working in the UK is very similar to working in Jamaica for me, so it hasn’t been much of an adjustment. The only thing I’ve found different is the card system they use on site… and obviously the weather!

Don’t focus on the journey but focus on the end goal, and all that you can achieve. 

Being part of the team

I really enjoy working as part of a team and getting to work with a variety of different construction trades. We work together on getting the job done and helping each other out, so it’s good to know that I’m part of something huge that it’s going to be around for years to come. I know that at the end of a build I have worked to my best of my ability and I am proud of what I have accomplished. 

To join the apprenticeship you don’t really need specific skills but there a couple of things that are important to know; you can’t be scared of heights, you need to be at least 18 years old and be happy to work outside.

Everything you need to know about formwork gets taught at college. You’ll also get additional support from your apprentice officer and the company you’re working for.  As part of the apprenticeship, you also have the opportunity to build on your English and Maths skills to help you with completion of your NVQ.

Because I had previous experience in construction I had a bit more insight of the day to day life on a construction site and when I compare it to other industries I believe construction is near the top of the list when it comes to rewards. Before starting work, I came to the UK for six months for a holiday and so I found it easier to get used to. Once I started working, getting integrated within the teams was fairly easy, and the work we do is very similar to what I had done previously.

Pursuing my passion – finding its rewards

My main achievement to date is successfully completing my apprenticeship portfolio and submitting it for assessment in just over 12 months. And for the long-term, I’m looking forward to progressing my career in the construction industry. 

My personal aspiration is to become a Site Supervisor within the next five years and then to progress to a Construction Manager. I’ve been with Byrnes for few months now and I know if I prove myself by being committed and focusing on my work, they’ll provide me with the right opportunities to achieve my personal goal.

I love what I do for living, so naturally I’m inspired to reach my career goal quicker. My dream would be to play a larger role in a land-mark development as a site manager or project manager, so I could see out a project from start to finish and to know that I was a part of its creation.

A lot of people have the preconception that construction is just building work in the mud and rain but it is much more than that. You need to be prepared for hard work, to dedicate yourself to achieve and some long hours, but it’ll produce a very rewarding career.

My best advice would be ‘Don't focus on the journey but focus on the end goal and all that you can achieve’.