His comments came as he visited Constructionarium, a not-for-profit organisation based in Norfolk. It provides essential practical programmes for students in higher and further education studying Built Environment courses and for professionals across the sector who lack practical application by “Turning Theory Into Practice”.
The Minister said “The Constructionarium is an inspiring facility which shares our priorities on providing skills and experience to those entering a trade. With demand high, there has never been a better time to consider a career in construction.
This industry has a vital role to play in helping our economy grow and it is through initiatives such as Constructionarium that we can ensure the next generation of people entering the workforce have the skills to improve the sector in the coming decades.’
During his visit, accompanied by local MP James Wild, they met students from the University of Salford who, working in teams, were hard at work constructing a 30ft version of Ove Arup’s Kingsgate Footbridge (which spans the River Wear in Durham from the University to the town) and a scaled replica of the Millennium Gallery based in Sheffield.
James Wild is the local MP to Constructionarium and has visited the facility on a number of occasions. He said “Constructionarium is an exemplar organisation which has listened to the needs of the industry, academia and government and is taking proactive steps to move the dial on the net zero agenda. It was great to have the construction minister in West Norfolk to see the training facilities here to help the next generation gain valuable experience.”
The pair of MP’s were invited by Constructionarium to see the site in action and to discuss their plans for developing their site into a multi-disciplinary training facility.
Julia Stevens, CEO of Constructionarium, had briefed the party about Constructionarium’s history. Established to address a skills gap for graduates entering the industry with no site experience, it now sees in excess of 800 students a year. It has a portfolio of large scaled replicas of iconic projects (such as The Gherkin, Millau Cable Bridge, Barcelona Tower etc) which are constructed in a week and provides real context to the learning undertaken at college and university; alongside providing a raft of personal and employability skills.
The unique organisation is developing its offering by building on its 18-year success through decarbonising it’s own projects, facility, and making a transition into a multi-disciplinary training facility for the Built Environment sector. This will aim for a closer collaboration between academics, designers, and constructors to educate students in the critical decisions of retrofit vs newbuild. Keith Clarke, Chairman, and the party discussed the urgent need for decarbonising the industry at all levels, individuals having the skills to deal with the digitalisation the industry is pushing for, and how these can be implemented safely on the wider construction sites – not just the mega projects being undertaken. Interest in Constructionarium’s NetZero webinars and their app, which is in development – the NetZeroHub, has been very successful during the past 18 months and has enabled employees at all levels to understand the issues and challenges affecting the sector.
Constructionarium’s offering will enable the likes of EDF to take innovative approaches to support its East Anglia project at Sizewell with local recruitment, training, and skills development. Guy Hazlehurst, Workforce Development Lead for Sizewell C, commented that the “Constructionarium facility is very impressive and inspirational for young people and new entrants coming into the industry and those seeking a career change. It’s foresight to move to a multi-disciplinary approach will resonate with the needs of the sector going forward.” Whilst Damian Leydon, Sunergos Partnership (Construction Advisor for Sizewell C – CWA) spoke of “the requirement for all levels of academia to have a joined-up approach to skills. The opportunities Constructionarium presents to all parties working across the Built Environment provides a natural vehicle for success”.
The 19-acre bespoke training facility is based within the CITB National Construction College at Bircham Newton and works closely with Constructionarium. Tim Balcon, CEO of CITB, said “Constructionarium helps to bring the excitement of the construction sector to students and that’s why we are pleased to host it at our National Construction College (NCC) campus in Bircham Newton.
The event enabled wider discussions about what CITB are doing to create better outcomes for construction employers across Britain.”
The Minister, Lee Rowley, was also interviewed by Fix Radio during the visit providing another first for Constructionarium.