7 March 2019

Business as usual for National Construction Colleges

In recent months, following the announcement that CITB has put its National Construction Colleges (NCC) up for sale, some media coverage has given the impression that the colleges might be closing. In reality, CITB will step away from the direct delivery of training but is actively seeking excellent training providers to take on NCC’s facilities and talented instructors to continue to deliver quality training. And it will only step away when it has found the right buyer.

National Construction Colleges at Bircham Newton, London (Erith), Glasgow (Inchinnan) and Birmingham provide a huge variety of courses which have one thing in common: upskilling the workforce so workers best meet the challenges of this rapidly changing industry. According to the latest Construction Skills Network (CSN) report (due for publication on 25 February 2019), the industry is set to grow by 1.1% over the next few years and 168,500 new jobs are predicted. Yet changing migration patterns and the retirement of many older construction workers, plus increasing digitisation, means the challenge of attracting, retraining and retaining workers is more acute than ever.

Like every industry, construction is undergoing rapid changes due to digitisation and as such requires a workforce which is tech-savvy and open-minded about these changes. Embracing new technologies such as drones and virtual and augmented reality, BIM and offsite construction can make the industry more efficient and productive; it is essential that the workforce spends more time at the interface of technology and reality.

NCC recently invested in 16 state-of-the-art plant simulators at Bircham which allow over 100 trainees every month to practice operating excavators, cranes, crawler dozers, telehandlers, tractors and dumper trucks without causing wear and tear – and whatever the weather. The simulators offer environmental benefits by reducing the amount of carbon emissions associated with traditional plant machinery and electronically record progress and analyse how learners behave in different scenarios.

The simulators also demonstrate the adverse effects that different weather and time of day can have when operating plant – for example changing from day to night, or rain, wind and snow – as well as creating modern construction scenarios that cannot be replicated in a typical real-life training session. This ensures that when trainees finally operate real equipment they will have the confidence and skills to do so.

Graham McPhail, CITB’s Head of Education and Training, said:

“New methods of technology are playing an increasingly important role in construction and this investment has helped us modernise the way we train. Simulators are of particular value because they allow ‘differentiated learning’: students learn at their own speed, progressing further if making swift progress, and are given more time if their skills need to be improved. We are committed to ensuring the right training is in place to produce the highly-skilled workforce required in our industry.”

All NCC centres are open and fully operational and invite companies and individuals to book now to receive innovative, high quality training so they are best equipped to take advantage of an exciting future for the industry.