A new construction education academy was unveiled this week, growing a college’s capacity for students learning a trade.

Carlisle College’s new unit will see spaces dedicated to plastering, bricklaying, and other construction-related skills for which it offers apprenticeships.

It will offer higher quality training, and programmes like T-level and higher technical qualifications, and provide more spaces for people to learn construction.

Over £1.5million was invested in the project which took 12 months to complete.

The current site caters for around 80 students and can be expanded, with working partnerships with major building companies including Persimmon, who donated 12,000 bricks for the launch.

News and Star: Construction students demonstrating their workConstruction students demonstrating their work (Image: Ollie Rawlinson)

We offer a range of courses across construction and the academy will work with students and apprentices ranging from level 2 and 3 qualifications in brickwork and bricklaying to extended qualifications in design, surveying and planning for construction and HNC in Construction Management.

At the official opening yesterday (May 17), which coincided with the college’s 70th anniversary, principal of Carlisle College, Sarah McGrath, said in a speech that the journey to get it open over the last 12 months was ‘at times bumpy’ which makes it ‘even more important and special’.

“This construction academy is another major step forward for the college and the region.

“We're proud to be developing and expanding our facilities to enable us to deliver high-quality training to even more students and apprentices.

News and Star: Bigger area, the new construction academyBigger area, the new construction academy (Image: Ollie Rawlinson)

“This academy really will help us to support the local construction industry even better and help us to realise the goals of the Local Skills Improvement Plan for Cumbria.

“The students and apprentices that you'll see here this afternoon are the future of the construction sector, and their development in a facility like this will only help Carlisle and the wider area to grow and to thrive,” she said.

She later said the rise in housebuilding meant a bigger demand for bricklaying, which they couldn’t accommodate before, when bricklaying and plastering were sharing the same area, adding that they’ve effectively doubled the space.

John Stevenson, Carlisle MP, was invited to speak and cut the ribbon.

He said construction builds ‘fabric for businesses to thrive, grow and expand’, something we’re currently witnessing, citing the new link road, station gateway project, and the new campus, as well as the St Cuthbert’s Garden Village.

News and Star: The new academy, with construction students showing their workThe new academy, with construction students showing their work (Image: Ollie Rawlinson)

It is therefore ‘absolutely vital’ this was launched to see the plans go through by building the skills locally, he said.

He later said, however, that Carlisle also needs to attract outsiders to work and live, while making it possible to stay and work here for locals.

Many construction graduates from Carlisle College go on to work for housebuilder Persimmon Homes in Cumbria.

Without Carlisle College, they wouldn’t be able to run their apprenticeship programme, according to their MD Ant Mansfield.

“I currently have 40 apprentices out of a workforce of 200, so apprenticeships are a massive part of what we do.”

On hiring locally rather than out-of-county, he said it’s ‘just the right thing to do’ economically and socially.

News and Star: Bricklaying demonstration at Carlisle College's new construction academyBricklaying demonstration at Carlisle College's new construction academy (Image: Ollie Rawlinson)

The event had huge student involvement; business students organised the running of the event and speakers while catering/hospitality students organised the food and drink.

The launch had the support of Labour candidate for Carlisle Julie Minns, who said it’s a ‘great step forward’ which will ensure Carlisle can offer jobs for students.

She added: “This is my third visit in many months and I’ve been blown away by the array of options here; Carlisle College is a real gem.”