A new half a million vocational training college has opened in Southampton. The former secondary school on Burgoyne Road, in Thornhill, is the first dedicated building skills college for those wanting to go into the building services engineering industry. The centre is run by training specialist Apprenticeship Training Limited (ATL) and covers courses from plumbing to nuclear site services.
Managing director of ATL, Nick Hayward, joined Steve Harris from BBC Radio Solent to explain more about the training opportunities available to those who want to pursue a successful career in the trades.
Nick, can you tell us more about apprenticeships…Youth unemployment is at a record high, do you think that apprenticeships can help to tackle this at all?
I certainly do. Obviously, apprentices need the support of local employers to give young people work opportunities, but in terms of learning a trade and skills; and potentially having a career for life, I really don’t think that there is any substitute for apprenticeships. Apprentices are employed from the first day of their training, or certainly within the first six months, and they earn whilst they learn; they learn the trade literally doing the job.
Is there not an argument that there is a limited number of jobs out there and if the housing market is in a bit of stasis at the moment that learning these skills might prove fruitless in a couple of years once people complete their apprenticeship?
I think that there is always a danger because markets are susceptible to certain economic conditions one ways or the other. However, the good news in the building services engineering sector is that there are still significant skill shortages in the UK and with higher than average age workforce, the opportunities going forward are very good because people are retiring all the time. You have also got the introduction of new technologies such as the renewable energy sector coming in which will require plumbers, electricians and gas engineers to install them and get involved.
How are you delivering these vocational subjects to students in college, how do people tend to learn? They can’t be sat at desks looking at a whiteboard…can they?
No, there is a combination of the underpinning knowledge, the theory side to any skill trade, but a lot of it is directly hands on in workshops. Getting them with the tools in their hands and the equipment they will be working with, and then under the guide and the tuition of experienced engineers apprentices learn by them, passing on all those skills. We compliment that with E-learning and we are about to introduce virtual reality training so that they take these skills into the virtual world. We have developed a universal programme which replicates pretty much any tool which is used in the trades; they are able to learn the skills in a virtual environment which, off course, for young people is particularly useful because there is no peer pressure; you can get it wrong as many times as you like and it is great for sustainability because you are not wasting scarce natural resources.
Is it true that you are going to get 5,000 students through in the first year? That’s a remarkable number…
We have 5 centres across the UK and this one in Southampton is the latest venture. We have relocated it and the new centre is much larger. We have a good combination of young people, existing trade professionals and also adult career changers. Everybody deserves the opportunity to learn a trade if they want to do so. It’s pretty much the same thing no matter how old you are. And yes, we do have that many students passing through our centres every year across all the trades we offer.
Nick, by the sound of it I should come down and have a look at this virtual reality programme, it sounds fun.
I would be delighted to invite you sometime, Steve!