One of the region’s largest construction companies is breaking the mould and ditching graduates in favour of school leavers.

Ipswich Star: Emma West. Photo: SEH French.Emma West. Photo: SEH French. (Image: Archant)

Ipswich's SEH French has taken on six trainees in the last year while turning away applications from graduates with top class degrees.

The reason? Graduates often lack the practical skills to get the job done.

MORE: Suffolk could lose Sainsbury's and Argos stores as 125 closures revealed"There remains a distorted expectation of how young people should progress out of school", explained director Simon Girling.

"Apprenticeships are often seen as the 'poor cousin' to university in higher education but they can be just as valuable to employers - sometimes more so.

"This is because they allow a company to mentor and train an individual to understand and embrace a specific work culture and way of doing things which some university leavers find hard to adopt as quickly.

"Apprenticeships should never be sneered at.

"There's a vast amount of young people out there who cannot go through university - because they don't have the grades or can't find the money - but they have plenty to offer a business like ours and we have had immensely positive experiences with those who came straight out of school."

The director added: "We are not opposed to graduates - their knowledge of the theory is fantastic - but we do feel that university tutors should be looking at how to tie in more practical elements into their courses - including time spent on site."

Mr Girling started his career 30 years ago as an apprentice with the SEH Group and then moved onto a national organisation, before returning to head up SEH French in 2000.

He said: "Along the way I completed a degree in quantity surveying but I learnt 80% in the workplace and 20% in college."

His newest recruit - Emma West, joined the company as a trainee quantity surveyor in June.

As part of her training, she will complete a QS degree as part of a 'learn while you earn' programme.

Mr Girling added: "We want to invest in young people and bring new talent into an industry which is suffering from a shortage of staff."