Plans have been unveiled for a construction site-based training initiative in the West Midlands which could provide the blueprint for flexible skills delivery in the sector.
The Learning and Skills Council-funded initiative, at Minster College, Leominster, has two principle objectives - to extend access to training opportunities that directly meet construction employers’ business needs, creating a deeper, better-skilled pool of potential employees; and to offer students and others access to a live site to promote construction careers and help attract the best into the industry.
Employers throughout the supply chain believe training on active construction sites represents the most accessible, flexible and cost effective method of skills support.
The LSC said the Minster College initiative aimed to offer a model that best suits the business needs of smaller construction employers and to offer joined up skills and employment support that address skills gaps, provides valuable work experience and ensures good community communication.
The initiative is led by Stepnell, building contractor for the new, purpose-built Minster College. A training environment will operate on the construction site until the development is completed in December 2010. A partnership of employers, learning providers and other agencies will deliver a comprehensive construction skills and employment service.
Stepnell managing director Mark Wakeford said: “We are proud to be leading in the development of this innovative project to both raise skills levels and promote careers in the construction sector.
“In challenging economical conditions for the industry, it is essential that employers continue to invest in skills, and develop the benefits of Integration through involving their supply chains, so that we do emerge from the downturn with our competitive edge as sharp as ever.”
“Learning onsite is a direct response to employers’ needs for training that is accessible in terms of location and is practical and work based for the smaller contractors who often are unaware of the relevance of training,” he added.
The downturn in the building industry due to the current slowdown in the housing sector is expected to mean an exodus of builders as they hunt for other work.
New training opportunities now are expected to deliver a new generation of skilled workers once the industry picks up again.
The LSC’s area director for Herefordshire and Worcestershire, Sharon Gray said construction firms had told her that the best way to deliver skills and training was on-site in an accessible, work-based environment.
“The Minster construction skills partnership is the model for what we hope will be a network of several such centres throughout the region, designed specifically to offer training that meets the needs of smaller employers,” she said.
“By forming this strong partnership to deliver the project, we can provide a flexible, integrated employment and skills service with the resources to make a lasting difference to the competitiveness of the region’s construction employers.”
Minster College principal Diane Blackmore said staff and students were delighted to be involved in the project.
“Leominster will certainly benefit from having a new state-of-the-art high school and the wider local community will reap even greater and longer lasting benefits.
“We believe in the value of lifelong learning and this scheme links employers, providers and learners in the shared challenge of building a sustainable modern Minster College.”
The Minster College partnership comprises: Stepnell and its supply chain, Minster College, the LSC, Herefordshire County Council, Worcester College of Technology, Connexions Service, Jobcentre Plus, the Rural Regeneration Zone, and West Midlands Brokerage Service.
Funding will come from a variety of sources including Train to Gain together with mainstream further education and Jobcentre Plus budgets.