New £4.75m facility is home to next generation of construction staff

Andrea Leadsome

A new state-of-the-art learning facility has been hailed as “the perfect place” to tackle a severe skills shortage and build a better future for the construction industry in Northamptonshire.

Northampton College’s £4.75million Advanced Construction Engineering (ACE) Centre, built at Booth Lane campus, was unveiled on Friday (September 20) at an official opening. It 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.

Principal Pat Brennan-Barrett was joined by guest of honour, Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom MP, fellow Conservative MPs Michael Ellis and Andrew Lewer and 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.

“It is the perfect place to 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.

Andrea Leadsom, Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire, 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.”

The centre features a “revolutionary” Digital Lab featuring a Virtual Reality classroom, 3D printing facilities and industry-standard workshop equipment and will provide a pipeline of work-ready staff for local employers, with dozens of major companies, including the likes of Kier, Bowmer & Kirkland, Metcalfe’s and the Murphy Group, already in place as recognised 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 Northampton College’s ACE Centre become a reality.

“This project will 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 has allowed us to help nurture and develop talent in the younger generation where we currently see a skills gap shortage. It will provide essential skills and training to pave the way for a better future for the local construction industry, local people and the local area.”