Skills to rebuild economy

Official opening the Kirklees College's new construction academy, pictured are Jonathan Inglesfield and Peter McCann. (d609a233)
Official opening the Kirklees College's new construction academy, pictured are Jonathan Inglesfield and Peter McCann. (d609a233)

JOINERS, decorators and plasterers of the future have a brand new centre where they can learn their chosen trades.

Kirklees College has opened its new construction academy, which will be home to around 130 students from September.

Classes will be taught in a building on the college’s Dewsbury site, which for years had stood empty but has been transformed in the last 12 months.

The academy was officially opened by college principal Peter McCann last Wednesday.

He told guests: “I hope you see a construction academy that is fit for purpose and will give young people and older people the skills they need.”

The plans for the construction academy were first formed last year when the college approached Kirklees Council’s Dewsbury Area Committee.

“We asked the councillors, what was it that we could do for our community here in Dewsbury,” said Mr McCann.

“Unanimously the councillors said the economy needed construction skills in Dewsbury.

“The construction industry is suffering – we all know that’s the case – but we believe that together with our partners, we have constructed an infrastructure and a plan that will enable us to work with the community and our students to develop the skills we need for the future.”

The construction academy building in Halifax Road was mothballed years ago and had stood empty ever since.

Centre manager Jonathan Inglesfield said: “It was like a junkyard almost.

“It seemed very ambitious when we first walked into the building. There were rooms within rooms within rooms.

“With vision and focus, working closely with estates, we managed to restore those areas.”

The academy was paid for with a £200,000 grant from the Skills Funding Agency.

The college was able to keep costs down by getting its in-house estates team to shoulder much of the work.

The academy is divided into different areas, with rooms dedicated to various disciplines including joinery, traditional and Venetian plastering, painting, and decorating and tiling.

Students from different disciplines will be able to combine their skills in a multi-site area where they can work together on special projects.

There will also be IT facilities available to students starting courses in September.

Before now, Kirklees College only taught construction courses at its sites in Huddersfield and Ossett. Brickwork will continue to be taught in Ossett, but it is hoped that those classes will also move to Dewsbury in 2013.

“We have got a massive shortage of skilled people in the industry,” said Mr Inglesfield, who is also the curriculum team leader for construction.

“Existing tradesmen are moving out of the industry. For the last 10 years we have had a skills shortage and now we have got a skills and labour shortage.

“By building a construction centre we are not going to create construction contracts but we can train young adults and teach them those skills for when the industry and economy rallies.”