Property developer and housebuilder, St. Modwen, has developed its first strategic partnership with a further education college to help address the UK’s construction skills shortage and is piloting a first-of-its-kind initiative to address the shortfall in skilled trades.

St. Modwen is working with Burton and South Derbyshire College to equip students with site-ready skills, entice experienced trades into teaching roles and encourage unemployed and ex-armed services personnel into the sector. The programme is based on four key components: modernising courses; providing real-world experience; increasing routes into the sector; andencouraging industry professionals to take up teaching.

Dave Smith, Manging Director of St. Modwen Homes, said:

“The UK needs tens of thousands of new homes each year, yet an ageing skilled workforce and a shortage of new recruits with site-ready skills means the construction industry faces an unprecedented challenge. We must tackle the mounting need to grow new talent, boost skills and improve entry routes into training to secure a future workforce. Through our partnership with Burton and South Derbyshire College, we want to build a sustainable education infrastructure that will support our next generation of skilled workers.”

Dawn Ward CBE, Chief Executive and Principal, Burton and South Derbyshire College, commented:

“We have worked with St. Modwen for a number of years and are delighted that we are now extending this strategic partnership so that we can have a demonstrable impact on the future skills needs of the construction sector. As a college, we work closely with industry to ensure our courses are current and meet industry needs. This partnership is an excellent example of that approach which is seeing our college working alongside an industry leader to meet their future skills needs.”

The partnership has four critical areas:

1. Ensuring courses meet future industry needs

Colleges are increasingly looking to work with house builders and their supply chains to identify gaps in construction training to ensure that time is spent learning the skills that the industry needs. This ensures learners gain the knowledge and real-world understanding required for employment.

St. Modwen has created an education group comprising St. Modwen Homes staff and representatives from its supply chain to review the content of courses at Burtonand South Derbyshire College’s Stephen Burke Construction Academy. Initially focussing on bricklaying and site carpentry courses, feedback is expected to further improve the application, relevance and currency of training to ensure learners are prepared for the best chances of employability.

2. Providing real-world experience

While classroom or simulation only training helps learners develop their skills in a controlled setting, it is also vital for them to experience working in a live working environment where they can gain an insight into the industry and kick start their careers on site.

To help provide learners with site-ready skills, St. Modwen has selected one of its live developments and is installing foundations on which bricklaying students will work to real drawings to construct one of its standard range houses.

3. Increasing routes into the sector

With a desperate need for skilled workers, the sector is looking at how it can promote alternative routes to training for those looking for a change in career.  Through its partnership with Burton and South Derbyshire College, St. Modwen has identified ex-military personnel and the recently unemployed as prospective recruits into the sector.

St. Modwen and Burton and South Derbyshire College will be running intensive training courses aimed at providing a route to employment for ex-service men and women. In addition, the business will partner with a local Jobcentre Plus to identify recently unemployed individuals who would also benefit from the intensive training course.

4. Encouraging industry professionals to take up teaching

 Further education (FE) colleges struggle to recruit and retain high-quality teaching talent as dual-qualified tradespeople – those with both industry and teaching experience - can earn, on average, 20% more in industry than they can in teaching. 

St. Modwen is working with Burton and South Derbyshire College to design a programme that gets industry professionals into teaching as quickly as possible. Making teaching an attractive career pathway is vital to the skills needs of the construction sector, as the lack of qualified construction lecturers could have a negative impact on the number of construction courses available in the future.

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