Blog: Weston College – creating the construction workforce of tomorrow

Construction is a vital contributor to the regional economy.

And it’s set to increase in importance with a number of projects either in development or planned.

The Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset is the largest construction project in Europe. Four thousand businesses in the south west are registered to work on the project and, by 2020, there will be £200m of spending each year in the local economy.

Public housing is another key area of regional growth, with the south west set to buck the UK trend and grow at 3.7% to 2021. Plus, the government’s pledge to build 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s, will also impact the region.

However, these developments – and issues such as Brexit – have highlighted a significant problem: demand is outstripping supply of skilled workers. In fact, a shortage of construction workers faced by small and medium-sized businesses has hit its worst level on record.

With over 20,000 new jobs being created in the region up to 2021, action is needed.

At Weston College, we’re taking the bull by the horns by developing a purpose-built Construction Training Centre This £3.8m project, which adds to our already comprehensive range of construction training courses, is based just off Junction 21 of the M5, and is due to open in spring 2019.

It addresses the shortage of infrastructure construction skills, and targets three areas where the shortage is at its most acute – plant operations, scaffolding, and groundworks.

But what makes this centre unique is that it’s geared towards fulfilling genuine commercial need and to providing training on demand.

Over the last decade, we’ve built strong relationships with employers to develop our apprenticeship provision. And it’s become increasingly apparent that commercial organisations want training at the point of need – not just for school leavers during the academic year.

Once the new centre is up and running, employers can come to us at any time for short courses, top-up courses, and to up-skill staff who are taking on new roles. We’ll also provide apprenticeships in these new areas when they’re required.

School leavers are able to take advantage of the available training at Weston College at our existing centre at South West Skills Campus on Locking Road. The new Construction Training Centre will also allow us to provide bespoke training at short notice, and react to the realities of the commercial world.

What’s more, construction employers, trade organisations and the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), who match-funded the project with some £3.3m through the Local Growth Fund, administered by the West of England Combined Authority, have all been fully engaged in informing the building design and offer.

But, as with any project of this nature, much of its success relies on the strategic partnerships it involves and we’re extremely fortunate to be working with highly professional, market-leading organisations.

We have a long-running relationship with Midas Construction, who are commissioned to build the centre. They understand the College, our priorities and how to provide the learning environment that students need. Midas are also a key member of the employers’ forum that drives the content of the new centre’s curriculum.

We’re also working closely with Simian Risk to deliver scaffolding training. We worked hard to identify a strategic partner for the centre and are delighted to be working with Simian, who are national leaders in the field of scaffolding safety, training and assessment.