One year ago, the Norfolk campus of Easton and Otley College was joined by over 100 guests for the opening ceremony of a new construction centre.
The £3.75 million pound project was funded by the New Anglia Growth Deal and was created to try and counteract a huge skills shortage in the building industry. The building of the construction centre in Norfolk was the first project from the Growth Deal to be opened.
The new ‘David Lawrence’ centre offers bespoke training in all elements of construction including bricklaying, joinery, site carpentry and electrical and currently teaches hundreds of students in a range of different trades. The centre was named after former principal of the college, David Lawrence.
The college has a similar facility in Suffolk that has seen student numbers rise by 20pc in the last 12 months. Progression on a similar scale is expected in Norfolk as the industry is currently amidst a growth period according to the construction manager Duane Randall.
Mr Randall, said, “Construction at the moment is booming in the South East and East Anglia in particular and the industry is crying out for new people. We are trying hard to get the interest of young people. Lots of youngsters seem to be going for so called ‘trendy’ courses like media and gaming – but construction is a great career and if you work hard, you can reap great rewards.
“In terms of the industry itself, currently we don’t have enough bricklayers, carpenters, labourers, or plasterers, plumbers – all trades need new recruits – so there will always be a demand for construction workers.
“We are working hard to ensure that we encourage a new generation of people to study with us in Norfolk to close the skills gap that currently exists.”
Mark Pendlington, chairman of New Anglia LEP, officially opened the building in November 2015 and he recently visited the centre to officially open a new institute that will train construction workers new techniques in relation to the building of energy efficient housing.
He said, “It is hugely rewarding to see the first of our major skills projects across Norfolk and Suffolk go from strength to strength, one year since opening.
“Our regional economy and the UK as a whole is suffering from a major shortage of skilled house builders, therefore and the David Lawrence construction centre is making great strides in tackling this issue. It is delivering 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. Therefore it is fulfilling to see the excellent progress that is being made at the college in relation to construction.”
One of the students to benefit from the new facilities is 18 year old Alex Wilson. The Wymondham based electrical engineering students, said, “The facilities are modern and up to date. After this course I want to progress to a level two course and then start an apprenticeship. There is a massive need for new houses so this naturally feels me with confidence for the future in terms of my career.”
17 year old Carpentry student, Dean Stubbs is on a level two course. Dean is also from Wymondham. He said, “I was here before the new facilities and they are excellent. I want to stay here and progress before getting into the industry – that’s the plan.”