ace centreWork has started on a state-of-the-art new facility aimed at tackling the severe skills shortages threatening to hit the construction industry in Northamptonshire.

The £4.75million Advanced Construction Engineering (ACE) Centre, to be built at Northampton College’s Booth Lane campus, will help train the next generation of builders, plumbers and decorators and teach pioneering new techniques aimed at equipping the workforce of the future with the very latest skills.

The first spade was placed into the ground by principal Pat Brennan-Barrett, alongside representatives from contractors Kier and the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership, which helped fund the project through its Skills Capital Fund.

She said: “The ACE Centre is a commitment to providing the very best educational facilities for our young people, an investment in the next generation of workers and the business leaders of tomorrow.

“The courses we will provide will ensure a pipeline of highly skilled, high quality students, with the technical abilities required by the to fill the skills gap that currently exists; providing a sustainable, long term and modern workforce to the construction industry and related services.”

Alongside courses which focus on craft skills there will also be courses at Level 3 for those looking for supervisory, technician or management careers in the sector, such as in Civil Engineering, Building Services Engineering, or Project Management.

Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, Jake Berry, said: “We’re committed to boosting economic growth across the whole of the UK and building a Britain fit for the future.

“The new Advanced Construction Engineering centre with its state-of-the-art new facilities is sure to have a lasting impact on the construction and engineering sectors of Northampton and beyond.

“The £2.25 million Local Growth Fund contribution will enable those enrolled at Northampton College to learn the pioneering new techniques and skills both they and employers need to boost our economy now and in the future.”

Building work on the centre, which will include a revolutionary ‘Digital Lab’ featuring a Virtual Reality classroom, 3D printing facilities and industry-standard workshop equipment, will now progress throughout the autumn and winter.

It is hoped that the ACE Centre, due to launch in September 2019, will provide a pipeline of ‘work-ready’ staff for local employers.

A total of 15 major companies, including the likes of Kier, Bowmer & Kirkland, Metcalfe’s and the Murphy Group, have already submitted written pledges to act as industry-based partners.

The building was part-funded through external funding from SEMLEP’s Skills Capital Fund.

Judith Barker, director of programmes and governance at SEMLEP, said: “Addressing both the skills gap and the ageing workforce is seen as a top priority within leading construction companies and it’s extremely heartening to see local employers pledging their support for the ACE Centre.

“This project is set to have a real impact on the economic wellbeing for Northampton and beyond, creating not just jobs but a highly-skilled workforce equipped with skills to last a lifetime.”

A spokesman for Kier said: “This project provides a key opportunity to help nurture and develop talent in the younger generation where we currently see a skills gap shortage. The significant benefits that it will provide are skills and training to enhance the future for the local construction industry, local individuals and to the local area.”

Prospective students can apply online now for courses in painting and decorating, plumbing and carpentry and joinery.

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