- Self Help Housing - http://self-help-housing.org -

On-Site Training Opportunities

Volunteers at Canopy [1]

Volunteers at Canopy

Working on empty properties can provide really good opportunities to provide hands-on training in building and construction skills. This might be on an informal basis or a more formal basis. A key distinction is whether any training would be accredited (ie. trainees would gain a recognised qualification) or non-accredited.

1. Non-Accredited Training .

Even though the training that you’re able to provide does not lead to a formal qualification, you can still organise it as professionally as possible. For example:

You might try to get someone with teaching experience in building or construction  to help with, or even run, the project

You might want to get  trainees to sign some form of ‘learning agreement’ before they start so that everyone knows where they stand.

Trainees could keep ‘portfolios’ recording what they learn as they go along  which could incorporate photographs of the work that they’ve done.

You could award  trainees with an ‘in house’ certificate when they finish detailing what you’ve done. .

The skills taught will come down to whatever trainees/volunteers can learn on-site from supervisors or even their peers. It’s important not to underestimate the value of this, since even though there’s no qualification on offer people can learn a great deal thorough hands-on experience and it can do a lot to improve an individual’s confidence, not to mention their knowledge.

2. Accredited Training

Putting things in place  to offer NVQs or City & Guilds isn’t an easy thing to organise. It may only be worth looking into, or pursuing, if you’re providing training as a major part of what you’re actually trying to achieve. If you are interested in going down this route, then you might want to contact your local Further Education College as a partner (if they are involved in construction type courses – but only some are)

Full time or part time?

Although it would be nice to provide full time training ( ie anything over 16 hours per week), this will mean that people are likely to be disqualified from claiming benefits, which would pose a major problem unless they had access to another source of income.

For this reason it would be most realistic to think in terms of providing training on a part-time basis of 16 hours or less per week. This applies to courses that lead to a qualification and also those that do not.

In terms of establishing that the course is “part  time”, the most important evidence is the ‘learning agreement’ which has to be signed with whoever is running the course. The Jobcentre will look at this agreement to check how many hours are involved.

However, many work-focussed courses, such as those leading to NVQs or City & Guilds, are part-time.

If you want people to be on site for more than 16 hours a week, it may be better to designate them as volunteers rather than trainees, as there is no limit to the amount of volunteering you can do on benefits.

For more information on this see http://www.streetmate.org/L02/L0201.html [2]


Claims for any of these benefits should not be affected because someone is doing a part time course:

  • Job Seekers Allowance
  • Income Support,
  • Incapacity Benefit,
  • Housing Benefit &
  • Council Tax Benefit  .

In relation to Jobseekers Allowance it’s important to remember that the position is as follows:

  • Although individuals are only on a part-time course, they still need to show that they are available and actively seeking work &
  • If the course hours clash with the times when people have said they’re  available for work, then the Jobcentre must either be satisfied that they  would be able to rearrange the hours of the course around  a job, or that they would give up the course if a job came up.

More information: http://www.streetmate.org/L02/L0202.html [3]

3. Types of Qualification

There are a number of initiatives available to allow volunteers and staff access to construction training and there are a several routes to securing qualifications.


  • NVQ stands for ‘National Vocational Qualification’ and are designed to give students the skills and knowledge needed to do a particular job up to the standards set by the industry or profession
  • Students build up ‘units of competence’ over a period of time to get the qualification and have to provide evidence, which is assessed, to show their competence in various aspects of the job.

For more information on NVQs

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/EducationAndLearning/QualificationsExplained/DG_10039029 [4]

A government programme called Train to Gain entitles individuals to free level 2 training if they have never achieved an NVQ 2 or have less than 5 GCSE below grade C

City & Guilds

This is an organization which awards over 500 different types of qualification, in all areas of business and industry, including all the main construction trades

For more information go to:

http://www.cityandguilds.com/cps/rde/xchg/cgonline/hs.xsl/5413.html [5]

Construction Skills (formerly CITB which is the Lead Industry Body for construction training).

They promote  a program called OSAT (on site assessment and training) which works with NVQ all levels based on empirical knowledge. It’s normally used for assessing adult workers on site with job knowledge  but with no qualifications. For further information on OSAT visit www.cskills.org [6] and search for OSAT. A lot of Colleges register for this program but few deliver it in practice. However, colleges do have to register with Construction Skills so they may have a directory of colleges taking part.

CSCS Health & Safety

One thing that is easy to build into your training is preparation for the CSCS health and safety test. All you need is a computer and the training CD. You might also pay the student’s test fee of £17.50 if you have the funds. For a full explanation of CSCS see http://www.streetmate.org/L03/L0307.html [7]

4. Finding Funds To Run Training

Finding funds for training is little different from looking for funding generally. The usual mix of trusts, local and central government and possibly corporate sources can be considered. A couple of things to point out:

Learning & Skills Council

The main funder of education is the Learning and Skills Council but it is very difficult to get funding from them as a small organization. One way you might benefit from LSC funds might be by working in partnership with a large provider such as a Further Education College. The LSC has now set up a website specially for charities and other community organisations – see http://thirdsector.lsc.gov.uk/ [8]

Working Neighbourhoods Fund

This is a central government provided stream of funding that some local authorities receive and which goes into the local authority’s Local Area Grant (linked to Local Area Agreements). Voluntary and community organisations can apply for funding from this fund and employment/training is likely to among their priorities. However, the only way to find out the exact position is to contact the local authority and ask..

If it’s difficult to obtain information directly from the local authority, then a good place to start would be your local Council For Voluntary Service. Details can be found at

http://www.navca.org.uk/liodir/ [9]

5. Moving Trainees On To Other Training

There may well be a limit to the training you can offer. It is therefore useful to have knowledge of the other local training options that may be available to your trainees. These might be taken up at the same time as working with you, or after they have left.

Further Education Colleges

These can be found across the country with many of them offering construction courses.

Many of the courses are free to people on benefits (you would just need to pay the one-off college registration fee – perhaps £20).

For details of courses go to floodlight.co.uk (see bottom of homepage for links to pages covering areas outside London).

For more details on Further Education see http://www.streetmate.org/L06/L0601.html [10]

Some of the more forward thinking colleges organise a flexible approach to training which addresses things like accredited prior learning and flexible directed delivery of training. The best course of action is to try and get a contact name for the college in your area and discuss the options they have available to suit your needs

JobcentrePlus Courses

The Jobcentre now has a limited range of vocational courses on offer. It may be worth contacting your local branch to see if they can refer to any construction courses.

http://www.jobcentreplus.gov.uk/JCP/Customers/Programmesandservices/index.html [11]



http://www.jobcentreplus.gov.uk/JCP/index.html [12]

Connexions – A source of good information about learning/training

http://www.connexions-direct.com/index.cfm?go=Learning [13]


http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/EducationAndLearning/QualificationsExplained/DG_10039029 [4]

City & Guilds

http://www.cityandguilds.com/cps/rde/xchg/SID-0E10D229-311A900B/cgonline/hs.xsl/12908.html [14]

Details of voluntary service councils

www.navca.org.uk [15]


www.streetmate,org [16]

Share [17]