Far from resting on its laurels as a flagship centre of excellence in the Scottish construction industry, South Lanarkshire College is fully focused on building a better, more sustainable  future for all

 

The construction sector has always had to be flexible and to move with the times. It always needs to adapt to influences such as materials available, new methods of building, architectural styles – and, of late, the aim of creating a low-carbon society.

Traditionally, it has ranked alongside transport as one of the biggest emitters of carbon. However, things are changing. The industry is now rapidly improving its environmental awareness and credentials.

The Faculty of Construction at South Lanarkshire College is at the forefront of this drive, delivering a green energy curriculum and providing courses that include micro-renewable energy installation, servicing and training.

“We need to be at the centre of this,” says David McLaren, Depute Head of the Faculty. “That’s especially true in the world of plumbing and gas. Also, roof slaters and tilers are getting trained to install solar panels. 

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“We also work with ground and air-source heat pumps and photovoltaics. The key is sustainability and getting the fabric of the building right and they learn these skills as part of their qualifications. They need to be first--class tradespeople, but also have the knowledge and understanding of environmentally friendly buildings.”

The faculty is a hugely important provider of construction and training in Scotland and is recognised as a flagship centre of excellence for the quality of its provision. It has a history dating back to 1948 when it was the Cambuslang-based School of Building. 

“We’ve had some pretty stellar successes in that time, with some students going on to manage significant companies and projects,” says McLaren, who himself is a former student there and a qualified bricklayer. Right through our history, we’ve been focused on practical craft skills, and we’ve always had really good connections with industry. We’re trying to be as responsive as we can and that link with firms is getting stronger and stronger as we work to react to training needs.”

Around 800 students a year join on access programmes, working to obtain an apprenticeship, while some 600 others have already become apprentices and are on related courses.

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Curriculum areas are timber crafts, plumbing, painting and decorating, trowel trades, built environment and HND. Courses unique to the college include new housebuilding and timber-frame erection, both at SVQ2 Level.

The faculty is one of only two in Scotland to pilot the new Pathway to Apprenticeship programme in construction. This has been designed by the industry to stimulate recruitment and to accelerate the skills pipeline. “Our job is not just to get students qualifications, but to act as a recruitment hub,” McLaren explains. 

The faculty is currently responding to industry requests to develop further qualifications and to establish two new skills academies.

One of these, the Insulated Render Skills Academy, is being established in partnership with specialist building contractors including GMG Contracts and AC White. “The two companies are working closely with us on the technical specifications of the training rigs and the training content required. However, the partnership working and the need for delivery goes beyond this.”

Once again, the programme relates to the decarbonisation agenda. It links directly to government initiatives for sustainability and most of the financial support for this academy comes from the Green Economy Fund.

This is administered through the Energy Skills Partnership, with which the college already has a long established and effective relationship.

A parallel body, the Ceiling Fixing and Dry Lining Academy, is being developed in partnership with another company, Linear Contracts and Linear Developments. The business has recognised the need to identify prospective employees with the right combination of skills. “We’ve been developing this concept over a number of months,” McLaren says. 

“We take students on an access programme and train them up. Next year they will then go out on a work placement with Linear that will be like an extended job interview.

“The company will take an interest in the students all the way through this process. Those taking part in the programme have an opportunity to find out if that sector of the industry is a good fit for them while learning about the company’s standards. It also assists with retention of employees.”

The construction sector, he adds, remains an exciting one in which to work. “It’s been a delight and a pleasure for me to be involved and fantastic to be able to provide real opportunities for young people. It’s so rewarding when you see the happiness in a student’s face from gaining an apprenticeship.”