St Vincent College in Gosport has invested £600,000 in expanding its construction teaching centre to help plug a skills gap in the area’s building trade.
The expansion means the college in Mill Lane has almost doubled the size of the college’s Skills for Construction Centre, said curriculum manager Steph Sear. “We are really excited about this because it will vastly improve the learning experience for our students and it will enable us to deliver even better teaching,” she said.
“There is better lighting and room for loads more storage. Although the centre looks like a professional workshop it’s not overwhelming for students coming into it for the first time.”
A former storage and delivery area was stripped out over the summer out to make room for the expansion, including the removal of two disused 50 gallon oil storage tanks. The new area has new flooring and brand new work benches, wood and tool stores and extra work areas.
The department has 65 students being taught level 1 in skills for construction – which includes carpentry, plastering, maintenance and painting – levels 2 and 3 in carpentry and level 1 in plastering, with level 2 to be added next year.
Tracy Wood teaches the level 1 students while Majid Kassam looks after level 2 and 3 carpentry and Richard Norton-Evans teaches plastering. They are supported by technician John Woods.
Ms Sear said the extra space the new centre has will allow for better storage, updated equipment and the ability to adapt courses to focus on the skills students need to get a job.
“Many of our students go on to work on building sites but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the way it is, we can offer learning for people like carpenters who may want to go and work independently,” she said. “Because we have got more room we can be more creative in the way we teach.”
Principal Andy Grant said college made the investment after talking to employers and industry experts. “We know that across Gosport and the Solent region the need for more construction skills is acute and it is going to grow in the coming years.
“This fantastic centre, allied with the skills of our brilliant teachers, will help us deliver the skills the trade needs. We have introduced plastering this autumn and that is already proving to be a success. We want to continue expanding and look at introducing other skills, like plumbing, in the future because we know there are young people who want to learn and there are career opportunities out there for them.”
Ms Sear said the college is keen to work more closely with construction businesses in the area. “We’d like them to use our space for their apprentices and to talk to us about the skills they need,” she said.
“It would be great if they could come in and talk to the students as well because we want to give them every chance of being prepared for work after they leave here.”
She said she is looking for more work placements for level 3 students during their course. “We want them to have had some practical experience because it makes them more employable,” she said.
The centre will also be opening up for adult education classes to offer courses in carpentry, painting and decorating and plastering. “We want the whole community to be able use the centre,” said Mrs Sear. “We would love to see evening classes making use of these facilities and I know it is something people will be interested in.”