Budding Brunels in Partnership with Great Western Railway

We recently joined forces with GWR to deliver two Budding Brunels courses in South Wales with the aim of raising awareness of professional opportunities within the construction industry for young people.

Budding Brunels is an Open College Network London (OCN) accredited course that gives young people from a variety of backgrounds an insight into the Built Environment, and provides industry-led careers advice from professionals in the field. 

22 young people (aged 17-18 years old) from 4 schools attended the first course in Newport/Cardiff and 15 young people from 6 different schools/training providers, attended the Tirphil/Treforest course; the delivery of both was supported by volunteers from Network Rail, BAM and ABC Electrification.

Project Diary

Day 1

Both sets of students were given an overview of the course, including an introduction to the OCN handbook.  Students then took part in activities that gave an insight into the various professions and processes within the construction industry.  Volunteers from Network Rail, ABC Electrification and BAM attended to take part in a networking activity and to give an insight into their roles and responsibilities.  In the afternoon, the students were given a tour of the individual sites, Newport Station/Bridge and Tirphil Station. 

Day 2

On the second day the students took part in activities to develop their understanding of the complexity of planning and delivering a construction project and the variety of roles involved.  These activities included a team bridge building challenge where students had to plan and construct a bridge using lollipop sticks and other similar materials. A public consultation role-play also took place which encouraged students to understand the impact of the works from different stakeholders’ points of view.  Volunteers supported students throughout; suggesting ideas and prompting students to justify their decisions.  Students also had the opportunity to network with a different set of volunteers, which allowed them the chance to interact with professionals from different specialisms.

During the day the students were also given a tour of the hosting university’s (The University of Cardiff and University of South Wales) Engineering facilities and lecturers were also on hand to give future career advice and guidance as to what steps the students could take after their current studies were complete.

Day 3

On the final day students spent the morning developing their team presentations which was based on a case study particular to the individual site that the students visited.  As well as preparing materials and notes, students were asked to identify what makes an engaging presentation and encouraged to exemplify those presentations skills later.  The groups presented their ideas to a “panel” of volunteers who then agreed on a winning team and gave individual feedback to each group on their performance.  After lunch, students were given the chance to practice responses to potential interview questions before they were interviewed more formally by the volunteers.  To conclude the course, students handed in their OCN handbooks and completed their progress webs and evaluation forms.


Both Budding Brunels course received a very positive response from both the students who participated and from the volunteers who took part.  The growth of students in terms of skills and knowledge was clearly witnessed by staff and volunteers as well as being evidenced in the feedback from the students themselves. Based on the evaluation forms we could see that 76% of the students from the first course and 85.7% from the second course would work in the built environment industry, which is a fantastic outcome.

Both Budding Brunels courses had a particularly large number of volunteers from Network Rail from diverse roles who gave their time and expert knowledge over the entire 3 days which was fantastic and ensured that the students got the benefits of meeting a broad range of professionals.

Approximately five students from each course are scheduled to undertake 5-day work experience placements during the summer holidays as a result of their participation with Balfour Beatty and/or BAM Construction Ltd dependent on their area of interest.  

Congratulations and thank you to all the students and volunteers involved!

We run the Budding Brunels course on a regular basis during term time and welcome potential corporate partners, schools or students to get in touch if they are interested in finding out more. Find upcoming courses here.