It was an academic year that promised to be much better than the last for staff and students at South Lanarkshire College, and for the South Lanarkshire College Construction faculty this was certainly the case.

Following a period of uncertainty due to the pandemic, the South Lanarkshire College Construction team, kicked off the year with the appointment of a new Head of Faculty, Associate Principal, David Innes. Mr Innes joins the East Kilbride-based college with a wealth of experience and knowledge, having worked in the Further Education sector for more than 25 years.

David Innes says, “Before making the move to South Lanarkshire College, I was involved at other institutions with the management and development of several curriculum areas, including technology, business and engineering, but construction has always been at the heart of what I do,”

David continues “Now, that we are moving away from the trials of the pandemic, my focus at South Lanarkshire College is to consolidate what we do well, this means developing new courses and new partnerships with industry and the community, including getting more females into construction courses and ultimately helping people achieve positive destinations.

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David’s aim to encourage women into the sector was enhanced during the 21/22 session with the appointment of South Lanarkshire College’s first ever female Construction Curriculum Manager, Nicola Murray. Nicola joined the faculty in April 2022, with the promise of changing the face of the construction industry. Nicola says “Joining South Lanarkshire College has been absolutely fantastic – I have been made incredibly welcome, and I am looking forward to being part of the excellent team here.

“As curriculum manager, it’s my job to help deliver the best teaching and learning possible, working with the training and mentoring teams, recruiting and supporting students, ensuring they are ‘future-proof’ – that they are motivated, and have the skills to adapt and keep their jobs when the industry changes.”

“I see my role as an important one, and I am passionate about encouraging more females into Construction. To do this we have to change the language we use around women in the industry. We should be reiterating the opportunities which exist, further down the line. For example, you can enter at an access level and progress into other areas, including HNCs in Construction Management or Quantity Surveying. Nicola adds “It is not all doom and gloom, as things have certainly improved since I started out, however, the low intake of women into the industry remains the same. This really needs to change, and I will be banging that particular drum as I go forward in my new role.”

David Innes agrees “Events such as the regional SkillBuild final heat which was held in June at South Lanarkshire College will help us on our quest to encourage more females into the sector”. He adds, “The SkillBuild event saw students from cross colleges across the region, compete at the one-day event on the South Lanarkshire campus in trades including, bricklaying, plastering, painting and decorating, and joinery, and here at South Lanarkshire we were delighted to host the competitive Regional Qualifying Heat.

David continues ”it was a really exciting day, with South Lanarkshire College and students from across the region competing in-person, on campus, in the hope of winning a place at the National SkillBuild Final”.

David smiles “Awards and competition’s such as SkillBuild, are a major part of South Lanarkshire College’s Construction team’s annual calendar, and they reflect on the successful work we do, for instance” he adds, “In December 2021, we were thrilled to be shortlisted in the Employer Engagement Category at the College Development Network Award’s for our partnership with A.C. Whyte, an energy efficiency contractor specialising in installing external wall insulation. The partnership involved the College erecting a A.C. Whyte Skills Academy building on the East Kilbride based College grounds. The bespoke building was designed to simulate a real working environment and the facility allowed and continues to allow students, to study Insulation and Building Treatments specialising in External Wall Insulation at SCQF level 5. The course which runs on campus and on site with A.C. Whyte allows students on the programme to practise and hone the skills and techniques required to be an external wall insulation installer. This has been seen across the industry as an innovative project, as we are one of the first institutions in the sector to create an academy that focuses on external wall insulation. Making us sector leading!”

David Continues “The project was based on a number of key factors including: the growing importance of the PAS 20-35 framework document, our partners winning significant council housing retrofit contracts; Brexit affecting the availability of a trained experienced workforce; the national zero carbon agenda and the development of the College curriculum to meet the needs of the green economy”.

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David acknowledges that the impressive campus facilities at South Lanarkshire College played an integral part in ensuring that CITB, who organise the SkillBuild event, and the Skills Academy partners, A. C. Whyte, chose South Lanarkshire College as their hosts. David says, “Since joining South Lanarkshire College, I have been astounded by the excellent facilities we have on campus, such as the state-of-the-art construction workshops, innovative machinery and, technical classrooms. Over the past 13 years since the construction faculty moved into the current campus, the faculty have strived to continuously improve, invest and update all equipment and facility areas, we want to ensure that our students, in whichever role they embark on, will have the tools, experience and knowledge required to succeed in the modern world”.

One of the many innovations on show at South Lanarkshire College includes a new wooden offcut recycling machine, which is used to recycle wooden offcuts into small briquettes. Once cut, the briquettes are used as a source to fuel and kindle domestic and commercial log burners and stoves “We purchased the machine as part of our sustainability initiative” says David, “At South Lanarkshire College we are committed to tackling climate change and as a Construction industry training provider, we feel that it is vital, that we are teaching our students the importance of green, sustainable practices. In 2011, With the support of a range of sponsors, a low carbon house was built on our campus grounds. It has been used as a training resource ever since and highlights the use of domestic dwelling renewable energies and low carbon building techniques. To further enhance our commitment to change, we are just about to launch our first ever Mobile Training Facility, which will have heat pump technology installed. The motorised vehicle will move from facility to facility supporting training in the hard-to-reach Lanarkshire rural areas.

David continues “We are delighted that the ecologically sound vehicle, which has been created in partnership with Energy Skills Partnership, and the Energy Savings Trust, will provide educational opportunities in renewables to students who for many reasons, are unable to access the East Kilbride based campus”

David adds “Overall it has been a fantastic first year in post. Even with Covid restrictions, we managed to work together as a faculty to safely host the annual technical NHBC conference on campus. The event saw around 140 delegates visit the College to learn about efficiency measures. The conference focussed on the implications for house builders and provided invaluable advice and guidance. David smiles” I could not be more thrilled with my first academic year at South Lanarkshire College, we are growing as a faculty and our students have gone from strength to strength in industry, experience, and competition. I have loved hearing about their positive destinations and successes from the lecturers and Curriculum Managers on my team , and feel proud of their achievements, such as, Roof Slating and Tiling student, Jordan Malay, who in this academic session, won both the Great British Slate Off championship and the Mason-Elliott Award for Roof Slating and Tiling. The success of our students is testimony to the hard work, commitment, and dedication of our excellent teaching staff, who are not only well qualified in their industry, but are encouraging, motivational and have a wealth of experience in their sector. With achievements and passion like this, the only way can be up for South Lanarkshire College’s construction team, bring on the 2022/23 session”.