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Construction students march on parliament after LSC denies college funding

More than 30 students from the National Construction College (NCC) marched to the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday, July 14 to demand MPs fight for urgent funding originally promised by the Learning and Skills Council for their college.
Construction students march on parliament after LSC denies college funding
The students organised the march after essential funding to redevelop the NCC's East campus was denied when the LSC announced just 13 projects on its shortlist would get funding as part of the FE capital funding programme.

Students from 20 different constitutiencies went into parliament to urge their local MPs to write to Kevin Brennan, the new minister for Further Education, Skills, Apprenticeships and Consumer Affairs, to demand finance for the college.

The Norfolk-based college is one of 79 projects that received funding approval in principle from the LSC. The college was poised to begin a £26m redevelopment programme, which has now been cancelled by the LSC. If funding is not secured within the next few years, many fear this would force the closure of the college.

Jason Chapman, second year plant mechanic said: 'It's a disaster. The site is more than 70 years old and in dire need of redevelopment. We're unhappy that the LSC could not see that the work we do here is vastly different from any other college in the country. If the site closes some of the best specialist training for the industry will clearly be lost. It just doesn't make sense.'

Andy Walder, NCC director said: 'Our project met all the LSC's 'readiness to start building' criteria - with full planning permission, a strong design team, detailed build designs and all other funding sources in place for a planned start on site of Autumn 2009. We had already stripped away aspects of the project that were not essential. Without this funding the college cannot continue to provide the training support the construction industry urgently needs. We are now actively seeking talks with the LSC to ensure they understand the unique nature of this project and to discuss how we can secure the redevelopment.'

Students and construction bosses were united in calling on Government to fund the specialist training centre. Wates and Laing O'Rourke and Kier are among the major construction firms backing the college's development campaign for funding.

Paul Sealy, head of organisation development at Kier, said: 'The construction industry faces long term skills shortages and the provision of high quality training through a craft and technical centre of excellence is vital in addressing this issue. Nationally only the NCC is currently capable of providing the facilities, specialist equipment and teaching expertise to deliver this type of training. However, it is now in an extremely precarious position. This withdrawal of support for a craft and technical skills centre of excellence at the NCC will have a detrimental effect on the skills of our future workforce and ultimately on the construction industry's long term ability to deliver the country's built environment.'

With seven campuses around the UK, the NCC is Europe's largest construction training provider - serving over 30,000 apprentices and adult learners every year, with the NCC east campus servingmore than 5,000 alone. The redeveloped NCC East campus in Norfolk would have been the National Skills Academy for Construction (NSAfC) National Specialist Training Hub - delivering highly specialist skills to the industry. NCC east campus facilities are 70 years old (on a former RAF site), but in use by over 5,000 learners a year. The NCC typically trains around 700 apprentices a year across all of its sites, with the majority trained at its NCC East campus.

Stephen Ratcliffe, Director, UKCG said: 'The College is driven by industry needs. UKCG, a group of senior executives from leading construction companies, have acknowledged that if the National Construction College were to cease providing training in any specialisms, this would have a severe negative impact on the industry.'

For NCC East and other colleges which were not shortlisted, the LSC says it will consult with the sector this autumn to agree process for prioritising the capital investment programme for the next spending review period which does not start until 2011-12.
15 July 2009

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