New City of Glasgow College partnership aims to help the building industry embrace circular economy

THE CONSTRUCTION industry has been slow to embrace the circular economy but a pioneering new programme aims to speed up the process by focussing on ‘training the trainers.’

City of Glasgow College, in partnership with Glasgow Caledonian University and Zero Waste Scotland, has developed a ground-breaking project which embeds circular economy into curriculum delivery.

Linus Reichenbach, Project Manager, Innovation and STEM at City of Glasgow College, explained: “The programme grew out of a growing recognition that lecturers, trainers and assessors need support to incorporate circular economy into their teaching.

“Upskilling staff, teaching our trainers the best skillset to go into the classroom, is at the heart of the programme and it will ultimately have benefits not just for City of Glasgow College staff, but for others across Scotland.”


Linus Reichenbach, Project Manager, Innovation and STEM at City of Glasgow College

Circular economy dominates thinking about sustainability in all sectors. 

But while other industries are already embracing it, developing new ways of working and innovative ways of tackling waste – for example, coffee shops turning used grounds into biofuels, or the fashion industry using cut-offs to create unique clothing – construction has been slower to adapt.

Each year, the UK building industry uses more than 400 million tonnes of material, making it the principle consumer – more than 60 per cent - of natural resources. It is responsible for an estimated 37 percent of all waste and around 10 percent of carbon emissions. Less than one third of the waste generated from construction and demolition is recovered and reused.

Andy Pollock, Associate Dean, Construction at City of Glasgow College, said: “Waste in construction has always been included in the curriculum, but largely as a side issue. Looking at it from the outset, considering the whole life cycle of a building during and after use, is vital in the current climate.

“In the past, our training approaches have been very traditional and reactive – we are very good at responding when there is a change to regulations or a new standard introduced. But there is a growing need to be ahead of the curve.”


Andy Pollock, Associate Dean, Construction at City of Glasgow College

He added: “City of Glasgow College has recognised that we cannot simply sit and wait for a formal qualification to come along as that can take a considerable amount of time.  We must take a more proactive, flexible and open-minded approach.”

The programme will begin with three events over the coming months, hosted in turn by City of Glasgow College, Glasgow Caledonian University and Zero Waste Scotland.

Linus explained: “Each event will include a number of presentations and workshops, focussing on case studies across Scotland, the wider UK and Europe. Participants will be given course materials to take away.”

He added: “The case studies are key to helping educators understand models of best practice that they can use in their teaching in the future. I recently learned of an initiative in which the circular economy was applied to every stage of a housebuilding process, and the waste produced fell from 30 tonnes to just two. It is that kind of powerful example which, when included in the curriculum, will inspire and ultimately encourage students to take on to industry.”

The team at City of Glasgow College is responsible for the bulk of the programme development, as well as the design of a digital learning pack and the overall co-ordination of the project. 

The college will also lead a dissemination session aimed at vocational education training (VET) educators working in, or peripheral to, construction education and training.

Linus added: “Collaboration is key, with our educational partners, and with industry. Training providers have to work closely with industry to develop programmes like this, to help drive change and keep staff up to date. There is also potential to adapt the construction programme for other industries, therefore upskilling college staff in a range of different areas.”

“It does represent a huge shift in thinking,” said Andy. “It is exciting for City of Glasgow College to be involved in the early stages of a project which we hope will eventually be rolled out across Scotland.

“It has the potential to change the future of the construction industry, education and training across the UK.”


Many teaching traditions ‘not relevant’

A project led by City of Glasgow College aims to ensure teachers don’t fall behind when it comes to innovation

THE rapidly changing demands of an increasingly digital economy require innovative approaches to educator development to ensure teachers and lecturers are not left behind.

A new European-wide project led by City of Glasgow College aims to tackle the issue head-on.


City of Glasgow College’s Head of Innovation and STEM, Stuart McDowall

Vocational Education and Training Teachers and Embracing the Digital Disruption (VET-TEDD) is a 30-month project, funded by the European Commission through the Erasmus Plus programme.

“The way students learn is changing and traditional teaching methods are no longer relevant in many areas,” explains the City of Glasgow College’s Head of Innovation and STEM, Stuart McDowall.

“We wanted to look at how to further engage students to enhance their learning. This project arose out of our awareness that the needs of industry and the challenges facing our students are continually changing.”

City of Glasgow College is working in partnership with the European Institute for Innovation and Technology in Germany; Noorderpoort and ROC A12 in the Netherlands; SPEV in the Czech Republic; Šolski Centre Nova Gorica in Slovenia; and Tknika in Basque Country.

“The thread running through it all is that teachers in the vocational education and training (VET) sector across Europe need to be better prepared for the digital challenges they face, both in preparing content for the classroom and equipping students for industry,” adds Stuart.

The project will increase the use of staff self-assessment as a way of identifying gaps and developing the new skills necessary to use digital tools both inside and out of the classroom. The self-assessment tool allows teachers and lecturers to measure their own competence in distinct areas such as professional engagement, learning and teaching and education in the digital world; and there are two further components, comprising six learning programmes and a series of case studies which give a flavour of the kind of work already being done across Europe.

“Ultimately it is these case studies which will provide a catalyst to help people really understand how applicable digital technology is, and what can be achieved by using it,” adds Stuart. “There is already some great work being done across the VET sector – this project is about celebrating that and making it accessible to everyone.

“Ours is a holistic approach – rather than focussing, for example, on individual ideas such as using augmented reality in construction or simulation in social care, we want to look at the VET sector as a whole.”

He adds: “It is about debunking myths, building confidence and making digital technology more accessible to those who do not use it, helping everyone to meet the changing demands of students and industry.”