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College builds for the future as new construction centre plans are cemented

25 March 2015

Easton and Otley College is looking to help the national housing crisis by trebling the amount of construction students that it teaches in Norfolk by 2018.

Work has officially started on the £3.75m construction training centre at the Easton campus which has been supported with £2.5m from the New Anglia LEP. The new centre will open in September 2015 and offer bespoke training in all elements of construction, including bricklaying, building construction operations (BCO), carpentry, joinery and electrical installation.

It comes at a time of a national housing and construction skills shortage across the UK. The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) is calling for at least 200,000 homes a year to be built by 2020, with the proportion of members struggling to recruit bricklayers up from 27% to 42% in a year and the figures for carpenters and joiners nearly doubling with 23% of firms reporting recruitment issues.* In Norfolk and Suffolk the National Housing Federation says the local economy needs to build 2,200 affordable homes annually which would bring over 113m to the local economy and 2,300 jobs.**

Easton & Otley college first started teaching courses in this field at their Norfolk campus in 2012/13. Initially 34 full-time learners participated in a mixture of bricklaying, carpentry, electrical and multi-skills courses. Two years on that number has grown to over 100 learners and by 2018, the Norfolk campus hopes to support 300 learners.

Interim principal, Christina Sadler, said, “We have trebled the number of Norfolk Construction students we teach in two years and we are aiming to do the same again in the next three years thanks to this new investment. We teach around 14 apprentices in addition to our full time students and we are confident that our new building will be a flagship centre for construction skills for the East of England.”

“We work very closely with industry at the moment - particularly the CITB – and this means we can create even stronger industry links in the next few months and years. All in all, the facility is fantastic news for us and it will help to enhance our reputation on a regional and national scale.”

New Anglia LEP secured £2.5m for the new construction centre as part of its Growth Deal with Government. The award also included funding for other key skills projects up until 2021, including new college centres for West Suffolk, West Anglia and Lowestoft. Construction of the centre at Easton is the first of the Growth Deal projects to get underway.

Mark Pendlington, chairman of New Anglia LEP, said the new centre at will help tackle the serious skills gap in the construction sector and in turn help provide much-needed new homes for Norfolk and Suffolk. He said, “It is hugely rewarding to see the first of our major skills projects across Norfolk and Suffolk being built, just a few months after securing the funding. Our regional economy and the UK as a whole is suffering from a major shortage of skilled house builders, from brick layers and carpenters to painters and plasterers. This excellent new training centre will offer new and exciting career opportunities for hundreds of students and apprentices, boosting our skilled workforce while helping to build the homes we need for the future. This is education and business collaboration at its very best and we congratulate and celebrate Easton College for turning a great ambition into really positive action.”

Construction of the training centre has been awarded to Norfolk based Chalcroft. Lizzie Stratton, contracts manager, explained: “We are naturally delighted to work as principal contractor on a project aimed at equipping future construction workers with essential skills. As a local employer ourselves, we are excited about the prospect of having more well-trained individuals entering the construction workplace in East Anglia.”

*Figures from the Federation of Master Builders January 2015

** Figures from the National Housing Federation Feb 2015

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