Building foundations for next generation

Students at Northumberland College's construction academy.
Students at Northumberland College's construction academy.

Northumberland College is hoping to help turn around the fall in the take-up of construction apprenticeships and lessen the skills shortage in the industry.

The Chartered Institute of Building recently announced that approximately 157,000 new recruits are required by 2021 to keep up with current demand.

Working with the likes of Bernicia and Taylor Wimpey, the college’s purpose-built construction academy offers state-of-the-art workshop facilities and complements vocational-based training provision available to 16 to 19-year-old students.

As well as mainstream construction methods, opportunities have also been created for students to learn specialist heritage skills. This has been welcome news, especially for organisations working on older buildings, using traditional craft techniques or alternative raw materials, and has helped to plug an industry skills gap, especially in Northumberland.

Paul Richmond, head of the construction academy, said: “Employers, especially those who provide niche construction services, often find themselves struggling to find the right candidates for employment so by giving our learners a complete insight into the industry across all trades, we can reduce the skills gap and offer well-rounded training.”

“Our construction academy opened in 2014 and because of the quality of facilities, we can provide a full overview from traditional, highly skilled craftsmanship and long-standing working methods to use of modern techniques, the latest technologies and new equipment.

“For areas like Northumberland where construction could include farm or agricultural-based projects in more rural areas, this is definitely an added bonus and a boost to the local economy through greater employment opportunities.”

Courses at Northumberland College are delivered by industry professionals in realistic workshop environments and range from entry level to advanced level 3. They include joinery, carpentry, tiling, plumbing, painting and decorating and property maintenance, with other courses including building crafts, textile floor covering and block paving. Work placements are also offered to full-time students.

The college updates its apprenticeship programmes regularly in line with regional partners and sector stakeholders.

Due to the quality of training received, students have been very successful in their respective subject areas representing the North East in national competitions like Skill Build.

Paul added: “Our association with companies including PASLOD, Rubi, Sigma and WEBER means that learners are trained using the latest technologies in preparation for employment. We are at the forefront of learning provision and larger construction organisations with a payroll over £3million could use their levy funding to access and take advantage of employee development through apprenticeships.

“Construction companies cannot afford to dismiss the importance of attracting the next generation of talent and through apprenticeships, we can increase opportunities, especially for females, and inspire young people to join the industry.”