Contractors should help to design courses, says college

The construction sector needs to collaborate with training providers to help close the skills gap, according to an educator at MidKent College.

Richard Wilde, project manager at MidKent College in Maidstone, said that contractors and subcontractors should assist training providers with the provision of materials and informing trainers about the precise skills required.

Speaking to Construction News at the Futurebuild conference, Wilde said: “As a training provider, we can provide the facilities, the courses and the means to deliver those courses.

“But we need that construction-sector engagement to give us the guidance on what they need, but also to help us with things like the products, the materials and the systems that we need to be teaching.”

MidKent College provides degree, apprenticeships, diplomas and T levels relating to construction. In April 2023 it opened a Green Skills Factory to provide training on retrofit skills.

Wilde added: “One of our biggest concerns is… we make these courses available to industry, but they don’t take them up.”

Wilde said that “the right” legislative, funding and regulatory drivers were needed to increase demand for construction courses.

The project manager admitted that it may be difficult for contractors to know where and how to get involved in education, but said events like those held by the Kent Construction Focus Group (KCFG) can facilitate conversations.

KCFG is a discussion group for businesses in the county on topics regarding development and construction. The most recent event took place on 5 March 2024, which was also attended by Daniel Large, director at Solaris Energy, which provides heat pump installation services. Large told CN that the ideal training course as a pathway to his company is the three-year, Level 3 Low Carbon Heating Technician apprenticeship, which was approved for delivery in August 2023.

He went on to say that the best time for the industry to engage with training providers was during the delivery of training so that materials and feedback on the course can be given, allowing for continuous improvement. He said that ideally industry would “train the trainers”.

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