The official go-ahead has been given for a new civil engineering training academy in the North East.
Seymour Civil Engineering’s plans for an 11-acre training facility have now been approved and its aim is to help tackle a gaping UK-wide skills shortage in the sector.
Kevin Byrne, Managing Director of the multi award-winning firm, says that the academy will impact both locally and nationally, providing qualifications to those needed to construct the nation’s future infrastructure.
Staff will work in collaboration with Hartlepool College of Further Education to provide qualifications for construction operatives from Seymour, the College and external organisations at the Hartlepool-based academy which will replicate a fully functioning construction site.
Kevin said: “There is a skills shortage, we’re addressing it and now that planning permission has been given we can move forward with a view to opening fully for business in time for the new academic year.
“While the initial ambition was to train our own staff – both current and future – we realised that there is a gap in the market and we will be able to train people from other businesses as well as new entrants to the construction industry.
“The kernel of the idea came about seven years ago when we were having difficulty accessing local training so we started to offer our own internal training with approved in-house trainers.
“As the industry progressed – and required more skills – we wanted to offer a wider variety of training to a larger volume of people and an increased number of apprentices.”
Civil Engineering Contractors Association members recently revealed the future supply of skilled operatives was the largest concern for firms in all parts of the UK.
According to the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) the construction industry needs to recruit in excess of 31,000 people every year to 2022, while research by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills suggests more than 750,000 people will leave the sector between 2014 and 2024.
It was in 2016 Hartlepool Borough Council was approached by Seymour and the College with a view to finding a suitable site for the academy which will be located on Brenda Road.
The academy will feature two training buildings, classrooms, welfare facilities, storage containers and toilets. Wildlife and ecological considerations will be addressed and utilised as a training resource.
Kevin says that as well as contributing to plugging the skills gap, another major benefit of the facility is that it will provide a welcome boost to the local economy.
He said: “We have been extremely pleased by the very positive approach of Hartlepool Borough Council councillors who see the social and economic benefit of this.
“The more people that we can attract to the academy, the more money will be directed to the service sector in the town such as at hotels and accommodation.”
Hartlepool College of Further Education has supported the project throughout and will be the awarding body for the academy’s qualifications including NVQs.
Andrew Steel, Assistant Principal of Hartlepool College of Further Education, said: “This is great news and a fantastic opportunity for the long-standing partnership between Hartlepool College of Further Education and Seymour Civil Engineering to deliver a unique civil engineering academy to the area.
“The academy will offer excellent training opportunities across a wide variety of civil engineering, plant and construction skills, increase apprenticeship opportunities in the Tees Valley as well as employing additional training staff to meet the anticipated demand.”
Kevin says that training will be taken up a gear as operatives will be able to practice on a site that’s authentic, but away from commercial pressures, allowing repeat exercises until required skill levels are achieved.
He said: “We will be offering nationally recognised qualifications that will allow civil engineers to work to the very highest level – on projects such as HS2 and Thames Tideway. Civil engineers that have come through our training academy ranks will be there to help deliver the nation’s infrastructure.
“It’s all about giving them meaningful hands on experience and confidence on a real site.
“When we look at the demographic of the company over the next five years we are inevitably going to be losing people through retirement, people with 30 and 40 years’ experience. We do not want to lose those skills, they need to be passed on.
“This is an opportunity for genuine hands-on trainers to be able to show students the Seymour way as well as deliver those vocational skills.”