The event was held at the college’s Enfield Centre, which is home to the London Rail Academy and London Welding Academy, and fully equipped workshops for courses and apprenticeships in Engineering, Rail Engineering, Plumbing, Carpentry, Electrical Installations and Brickwork.
Among the companies promoting engineering and construction careers and at the college were London Underground, Emcor UK, Cleshar, Yunex Traffic, Perfect Welding and CML Steel.
Also present at the event was construction firm Countryside Partnerships, which recently launched an Enfield Construction Skills Academy with Enfield Council and CONEL to support the huge Meridian Water regeneration in the borough.
Students had the chance to hear from their peers and see the college’s replica Docklands Light Railway (DLR) train and a train undercarriage know as a bogie, which were donated to CONEL by Transport for London (TfL) and Eversholt Rail respectively.
Shifa Fatima Shaikh, 16, is studying for an Engineering Level 3 Diploma at CONEL and hopes to stay at the college and complete a rail engineering apprenticeship when she finishes her course.
She said: “I don’t think university is the right route for me. I’m a very hands-on learner and prefer to shadow people and then apply those skills, rather than just sitting and listening to a lecturer.
“I feel apprenticeships hold more value. With university you go to lectures and sit your exams, but when you get your degree and apply for a job and they ask about your work experience you’re not able to say anything, and so you don’t get employed. With apprenticeships you have both the work experience and the qualification and do not have any debt.
“My teacher is very straightforward, he doesn’t sugar-coat anything. He’s worked in engineering, which really inspiring because it’s applied knowledge. He knows the work ethic and commitment employers are looking for and gives us lots of feedback, advice and support to get there.”
According to the Institute of Engineering and Technology there is a shortfall of 173,000 workers in the STEM sector, while the Construction Industry Training Board has revealed around 225,000 extra workers are needed by 2027.
Suzana Harrison, Entry Level Talent Lead for Yunex Traffic, which manufactures, installs and services traffic lights and other street furniture, said: “It is important for us to get our name out in the local community and at college events to make sure people understand there is a route to work outside of going to university.
“CONEL has spent a lot of money to make sure it is meeting the needs of local businesses. The college has very good workshops and the lecturers and will be providing electrical engineering apprentices at our Enfield depot this summer.
“We’ve had interest from students who are coming through the college on Level 2 courses who are looking to do a Level 3 apprenticeship, not just from engineering students but also those studying electrical qualifications.”
Students also learnt more about the London Rail Academy, which is run by CONEL to provide apprenticeship training for companies including TfL, Siemens, Alstom, Thales, DLR, Hitachi, London North Eastern Railway (LNER), Eurostar, Coral Communications and VolkerRail.
CONEL also offers Rail Track Technician apprenticeships with London Underground through Capital City College Training (CCCT), which provides a wide range of apprenticeship opportunities.
The London Welding Academy was set up in partnership with Paddington, a subsidiary of construction giant Ardmore, to initially provide apprenticeship training for the company.
Tony Hayden, Managing Director of Perfect Welding, which supplies equipment and certifies welders for companies including Ardmore and helped build the London Welding Academy, said: “Ardmore are absolutely delighted with all the apprentices who are being trained at CONEL.
“Early on all the apprentices had to produce a weld, which were judged by the workshop manager, and there is a girl here who was the star of the show. She’s now welding aluminium working on actual jobs every day, which is quite a difficult skill to learn because it needs a lot of dexterity, co-ordination and heat control because the metal expands very quickly.
“I’ve been to see the apprentices working in the factory and they are already quite advanced. They have had a really good education taught well at CONEL, not just in welding but in fabrication. It’s not just a case of welding it up, but being able to read a drawing, be accurate with measuring and knowing how to put metal structurally together.
“There is huge shortage of welding and fabrication engineers, and engineering in the UK in general, so it’s vital that events like these are supported. The good thing about it is that everyone here is enthusiastic about getting students and apprentices trained and out into the workplace.”