Preston’s College skill centre is building for future

Adam McEwan, EWLF student at Preston's College
Adam McEwan, EWLF student at Preston's College
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A city college is cementing its plans to help build a skillforce for the future.

The Fulwood-based Preston’s College has a officially opened a new construction skill centre. Developed in conjunction with the Eric Wright Foundation, the facility replicates a live construction site.

Covering 1,131 sq m, the Real Work Environment (RWE) features mini buildings or ‘pods’ complete with low-level scaffolding to mimic the various stages of work on a typical building site.

The college joined forces with the Eric Wright Group to increase the range of construction and engineering courses already on offer.

Recognising that theory-based learning doesn’t always work in construction, tutors worked hand-in-hand with the Bamber Bridge-based firm to develop a new curriculum that adapts to modern industry needs. The well known construction firm also offers work experience placements and opportunities for students to progress onto an apprenticeship with them.

Until recently The Eric Wright Foundation ran a mini-training site in Leyland which was used by pupils from schools across South Ribble and beyond.

College principal and chief executive Lis Smith said: “The wealth of infrastructure improvements that have come to fruition thanks to the City Deal will see a boost to the local economy of more than £1bn.

“This means that the construction sector will need access to skilled workers more than ever before and it’s our mission to ensure we help to bridge the skills gap.

“The college takes great pride in supporting all of our learners to achieve the qualifications they need, alongside the development of the skills and knowledge that employers and universities are looking for, and the EWLF facility is a critical part in making that happen.”

Diane Bourne, board member of Eric Wright Group, said: “The construction sector has long been blighted by a labour shortage and with the industry now getting back on its feet following the recession; we need access to skilled workers now more than ever.

“Following 10 successful years of the EWLF at its previous base in Leyland, we are now working together with Preston’s College to provide learners with an experience that truly reflects a typical working day.

“Students wear personal protection equipment, receive safety inspections and undertake live construction projects to gain a full understanding of the different trades, how they work together and what employment opportunities are available in the industry.”

The opening of the new EWLF construction centre comes shortly after the launch of the college’s £13m iSTEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics).

The ethos behind the new facility mirrors that of iSTEM –to equip students with the sector-specific skills that employers want and need, whilst also addressing growing skills shortages.

A group of students aged 16-18 studying Building Craft Occupation and a Level 1 Diploma unveiled a plaque to mark the official opening.