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Lord Mayor officially opens new £5.5m York College Construction and Engineering Centre Extension

The Lord Mayor of York, Chris Cullwick officially opened York College’s £5.5million Construction & Engineering Centre Extension and declared its “vitally important role” in addressing the country’s manufacturing skills shortage.

Having previously served as a Master of the York Guild of Building and as Chair on the City of York Council’s Planning Committee, the Lord Mayor admitted it was a “privilege” to be asked to cut the ribbon on the new building that will firmly cement the College’s reputation as the North’s leading provider of technical and construction skills.

A £2.6million contribution from the Department for Education’s T Level Capacity Fund helped towards the cost of the building that was completed within its 38-week timeframe and on budget.

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.

The first floor of the new facility comprises of a practical workshop for brickwork and joinery students, while the second contains a Computer Aided Design (CAD) 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 is placing a big emphasis on sustainability with solar photovoltaic 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.

The building and its state-of-the-art technology will improve the college’s capacity to deliver tuition to more students and offer an even 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, even tried on a Virtual Reality headset that students are using to replicate real-life work scenarios.

Earlier, whilst addressing a gathering of the college’s industry partners, he said: “I feel privileged to have officially opened this wonderful new facility. 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. 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.

“Considering the current challenges in the construction industry regarding the costs of materials, it is also really encouraging that the building has been delivered on time and on budget.”

Hobson & Porter were the project’s main contractors and some of the college’s construction students did work experience placements on site during the build.

Building Services T Level students will be the biggest beneficiaries of the new facility, but it will also be used by electrical and plumbing apprentices and those who are doing engineering courses and the HNC Construction & The Built Environment qualification.

On the new facility’s benefits, York College & University Centre Acting Chief Executive and Principal Ken Merry said: “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. 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.”

Barratt Developments Grant and Funding Manager Phil Evans, who oversees the housebuilders’ Level 2 and 3 apprenticeship programmes, added: “The extension is so important because we’ve got to grow the skills base in the bricklaying and carpentry industries for the future and, working closely with York College as a training provider, means we will have those skills to expand our business. I’ve been able to speak to our apprentices in the workshop today and they’re really pleased with the new tools and equipment and this new facility gives us the confidence that our apprentices are going to continue to get top-quality training from the college to prepare them for on-site work.”

Having first opened its doors last month, second-year T Level Engineering student Callum Stephenson has already sampled the opportunities provided by the new extension.

Delivering a speech at the opening, he enthused: “The new facilities are amazing. The CAD Suite, in particular, is really helpful and has enabled me to produce some really good model work.”

To gain more information about York College & University Centre’s construction and engineering courses and apprenticeships, visit the website by clicking here

You can also learn more about apprenticeship opportunities and discuss specific courses with tutors at the college’s next Open Event on Tuesday, March 19 (5.30-8pm). Register your place by clicking here