Bridging the gap between building site and classroom

Construction students at West Suffolk College. Picture: DANNY HEWITT

Construction students at West Suffolk College. Picture: DANNY HEWITT - Credit: Archant

West Suffolk College has started work on an innovative training centre at its Bury St Edmunds campus for the builders of the future.

Debbie Coomes of West Suffolk College Picture: DANNY HEWITT

Debbie Coomes of West Suffolk College Picture: DANNY HEWITT - Credit: Danny Hewitt

The £65,000 training facility at the Milburn Campus is in collaboration with construction giant Morgan Sindall and the New Anglia Building Growth Group.

The plan, thought to be a first of its kind in the UK, includes the construction of ten 5m by 6m training pods, each dedicated to a different trade.

Working to live site rules and regulations, students can gain valuable on-site experience and demonstrate the different types of construction ranging from traditional skills, clay lump, lime plastering, flint work, medieval timber frame, and thatching, to modern methods such as modular construction.

The aim is to bridge the gap in education identified by local employers, between the classroom and a live construction site.


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Debbie Coomes, executive director at West Suffolk College, said the innovation park would provide a safe, controlled site environment for students to develop essential employability skills.

"It is vital that our students leave our college with the skills and competencies required within the region, in both conservation and modern construction and are fully prepared for their first job in the construction industry," she said.

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"We are committed to giving our students the skills to succeed in their industry."

The college has already secured 50% of the funding through grants from the Skills Deal programme by New Anglia LEP, in collaboration with Morgan Sindall and New Anglia Building Growth Group

It is now is now looking for businesses and individuals to support it with sponsorship or donations of time, materials and advice.

Some companies have already offered support - Holmes Plant and Construction will dig out the road and five of the pods, while DJ Evans builders merchants has provided personal protective equipment.

The college is hosting a week-long pledge and discussion event about the project on Wednesday October 30, with talks from companies such as Kier, Birketts, and Whiting & Partners.

For more information contact project managers EP Friel on 01473 684192.

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