How to get sponsored to do a construction degree
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It is quite common for construction companies to sponsor university students through their degrees, particularly in subjects such as construction management, civil engineering and quantity surveying. This involves them paying all, or some, of your fees in return for you working for them.
There are two main types of sponsorship:
- You join a construction company’s training scheme and you study for your degree at the same time as working for them – known as a degree apprenticeship. You’ll either go to university one day a week or be sent to university for a number of weeks at a time (which is called ‘block release’).
- You study for a degree full time. Your sponsor company pays your fees (or gives you a bursary/scholarship to put towards them). You work for the company during your holidays and a work placement year if you have one. Some construction companies offer sponsorship from the first year of your degree; others offer sponsorship for your final year only (usually after you’ve impressed them on a work placement).
The rest of this article will focus on how to get sponsorship while you study your degree full time.
- financial support for your degree (and therefore much less, or even no, debt).
- real construction work experience, which will enhance your CV and your coursework, allowing you to see how the theory is applied in practice.
- the chance to gain useful contacts in the industry before you even start your career.
- a job on graduating, although this isn’t always guaranteed.
To get your funding, you will need to keep to the conditions your sponsor sets out at the beginning of the process. Be clear about what is expected of you. Conditions you may be expected to keep include:
- passing your university modules.
- completing all of the work placements arranged for you.
- spending your work placement year with your sponsorship company rather than another one.
- agreeing to work for the company for a set period of time when you graduate (often several years) and having to pay back some of your funding if you don’t.
- representing and promoting your sponsor during term time as a ‘campus ambassador’.
- attending company events.
A number of construction companies offer sponsorship opportunities – check individual companies’ recruitment adverts and their own recruitment websites to find out what opportunities are available.
The professional body that represents the construction career you are interested in may also be able to provide you with details of sponsor companies. It’s worth finding out whether the professional body itself runs a sponsorship scheme or offers bursaries, too. Each year, for example, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) offers the QUEST undergraduate scholarship scheme for civil engineering students.
Some universities require students to have sponsorship before joining a degree course. If this is the case, course leaders usually put you in touch with sponsorship organisations.
If you have to apply for sponsorship to get onto your course, you apply to UCAS in the usual way. Gregory King, a graduate of Loughborough University and an assistant site manager at Galliford Try, explains how he got sponsorship for his course: ‘As part of the UCAS application process I was invited to Loughborough for an assessment day where I learned more about the course. I was also interviewed by one lecturer and one member of a sponsoring company. Each applicant had to obtain sponsorship from a company and so I attended interviews with several before being made an offer.’
How to apply for sponsorship without help from a university
If you don’t need sponsorship to get onto your course but would like it anyway, you’ll need to keep an eye out for employers’ deadlines. These differ for each employer, but you may need to have received a conditional offer of acceptance from a university before you apply.
Recruiters assessing your application will often want you to have achieved certain results at GCSE (or equivalent) and be on track to achieve a certain minimum number of UCAS points. Some give preference to those candidates who have got work experience in the industry (especially if it is with them). A number of employers offer work experience to GCSE and sixth form students.
The application process for sponsorship involves filling in an application form, which usually includes questions about why you want to work in the construction industry and why you have chosen your course. If you are successful at this stage, you may need to complete online ability tests or be interviewed over the phone. If you impress, you will be invited to a face-to-face interview. This may be part of an assessment day where different candidates get together and take part in different activities.
What questions may you be asked at a sponsorship interview?
Sponsorship companies do not expect you to have any technical knowledge: their questions will focus on why you want to do the course, which job roles you are interested in and why, and your skills. Remember to research the different job roles your degree course could lead to before you attend an interview.