The lord mayor of York, Chris Cullwick, has officially opened the new £5.5million extension to York College& University Centre’s Construction & Engineering Centre, highlighting its ‘vitally important role’ in addressing the country’s manufacturing skills shortage.
A £2.6million contribution from the Department for Education’s T Level Capacity Fund helped towards the cost of the building. T Levels are the technical-based qualifications introduced by the government in 2020 as an alternative post-16 educational option to A Levels and include 315 work-placement hours. Some of the college’s construction students undertook work experience placements on site during the build.
The first floor of the new facility is comprised of a practical workshop for brickwork and joinery students, while the second contains a computer aided design suite and a multi-functional engineering and product design workshop for 3D modelling and prototyping.
As well as being fitted out with new high-tech equipment for students to work on, the extension’s design has placed a big emphasis on sustainability, with photovoltaic solar roof panels, air-source heat pumps and natural ventilation heat-recovery units all contributing to the aim of establishing it as a carbon-neutral facility.
According to the college, the building and its state-of-the-art technology will improve its capacity to deliver tuition to more students and offer a wider variety of courses in the future, with a greater emphasis on renewable methods of training and working.
During a tour of the extension, the lord mayor, who previously worked at the college delivering chaplaincy support to staff and students, tried on a virtual reality headset that students are using to replicate real-life work scenarios.
‘I feel privileged to have officially opened this wonderful new facility,’ Cullwick said. ‘The construction and engineering industries shape every aspect of our lives, whether that be where we live, how we travel and how we spend our leisure time, or the hospitals, workplaces and schools we go to.
‘The need for skilled construction labour is growing year on year and that’s not going to change in the future,’ he continued. ‘Artificial Intelligence won’t be building our schools, hospitals and bridges, so it’s important that people are trained and retrained in these skills and that’s where York College’s Construction and Engineering Centre is playing such a vitally important role, especially as we transition towards a more sustainable way of building and living.’
‘We have engaged with local, regional and national employers, and been deliberate in the state-of-the-art equipment that we have chosen to install so that it directly reflects the industry our students and apprentices will be processing into,’ said Ken Merry, York College & University Centre’s acting chief executive and principal. ‘They will get to work in environments that directly mirror the industry, meaning they will have more transferable skills that reflect modern methods of construction and engineering to ensure they are employment ready when they have completed their learning.’
The new extension first opened its doors last month and the opportunities provided by the new extension have already been sampled by some of the students. ‘The new facilities are amazing,’ said second-year T Level engineering & manufacturing: design & development student Callum Stephenson. ‘The CAD suite, in particular, is really helpful and has enabled me to produce some really good model work.’
For anyone wishing to learn more about apprenticeship opportunities and discuss specific courses with tutors, the college is holding an open event on Tuesday 19 March between 5.30pm and 8pm. You can register here.