A partnership has provided hands-on training to Staffordshire University graduates who have helped play a role in the construction of a £40 million flagship building in Stoke-on-Trent.

The Staffordshire University class of 2020 graduates completed a month-long internship with VINCI Construction UK, the construction giant working on The Catalyst building at the university.

The graduates were given the chance to explore all aspects of the construction industry and work alongside the site management, engineering, commercial, project management and design teams.

The partnership was initiated as part of a social value pledge between Staffordshire University and VINCI Construction UK, which aims to positively impact the local area.

The pledge also includes hiring 20 local apprentices, delivering mental health awareness training sessions and committing 10 hours per employee time to support community projects.

Dylan Foster, who graduated with a BA (Hons) in business with marketing management and is currently undertaking an MBA at Staffordshire University, said: “I knew that I wanted to be proactive during lockdown to gain new skills and work experience. When the opportunity to work on The Catalyst project came along, I jumped at the chance.

“The highlights for me have been the commercial side of the placement as it fits in well with business and my degree, and being able to see that the work I’ve done has made an impact on the overall project.

“It’s amazing to be able to say so early on in my career that I’ve worked on a project like this.”

George Lewis, from Shelton, is a graduate in BA (Hons) graphic design. He added: “I wasn’t sure what to do after finishing my degree and the placement provided me with a great opportunity to learn new skills and experience.

“I hadn’t planned on going into construction specifically, but it has been a great experience and I know that even if I don’t pursue this as a career, that there is still so much that I’ve learned that I can take into different jobs in the future.”

The 8,800 square metre Catalyst building, which is due to be completed in the autumn, will be home to more than 6,500 apprenticeships and the Staffordshire University Business School.

It will boast a range of teaching and learning spaces, a flexible events space and new catering provisions.

Samantha Levitt, careers relationship manager at Staffordshire University, said: “Our mission is to help Staffordshire University students and graduates to explore their career options.

“Internships like this provide invaluable opportunities for our students and graduates to build confidence and develop careers skills for life.

“We’re proud that our graduates had the opportunity to gain such a unique and enriching experience on what will become the centrepiece of our Stoke-on-Trent campus for years to come.”

James Prendergast, project manager for The Catalyst Building at VINCI Construction UK, said: “As principal contractor for The Catalyst Building, VINCI are always positive in shaping young minds within the construction industry and have welcomed the opportunity of inviting the graduates and students to attend a four-week placement on site to experience the different disciplines on offer within a construction site.

We are pleased that the experience that George and Dylan have gained will assist with their future career choices.”

Two further Staffordshire University graduates have now embarked on similar work placements with VINCI Construction UK.