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Gloucestershire Business News

Plans revealed for multi-million-pound heritage building skills centre

A new building skills centre specialising in all things heritage could be given the go-ahead later this year at a Gloucestershire college.

The bid, understood to be for in the region of £2 million, is sitting with the county's local enterprise partnership GFirst LEP, awaiting its rubber stamp.

South Gloucestershire and Stroud College would not go into the financial detail of any such investment, but was happy to outline its grand plans which would put Gloucestershire on the map as a centre of training excellence for the fast-disappearing skills.

Sara-Jane Watkins, principal at SGS College, said: "The investment requested will enable the development of an 'Eco Future, Heritage Past' extended construction centre at SGS Stroud focused on sustainable and heritage construction techniques and renewable energies with a specific focus on homes that generate their own heat and power and are thermally efficient.

This project will enable the college to respond to known GFIRST LEP skills gaps focussed on the construction sector, with a specific emphasis on increasing adult and apprenticeship learners in modern design and building technologies that support the national and regional Industrial Strategies in terms of refocussing on sustainable building technologies."

"Without this investment, the college will be unable to adapt its practical construction environment accordingly and will be unable to respond to the regional need."

She added: "The 'Eco Future, Heritage Past' project will enable learners to work with emerging construction materials that use heat and light to make electricity and on ways of storing energy and releasing it through 'smart energy systems'.

"Learners will embrace new technologies and methods of construction that will enable the cost-effective production of highly energy efficient walls, roofs and windows.

"It is hoped that these newly acquired skills will positively impact the sustainable methodologies required for the considerable volume of new builds planned across the GFIRST LEP area, including the embracing of modular building techniques and technologies.

"The future challenges of increased housing, as well as utilising our existing housing stock, incorporating energy efficient materials and technology for energy generation and storage using non-traditional building methodologies is at odds with the 'wet trades' and traditional building skills taught currently at SGS College - or most colleges.

"Uniquely in Stroud and the Cotswolds because of its international tourist designation which has been highlighted within the Gloucestershire Industrial Strategy, there is absolute pressure to maintain the traditional building stock and listed heritage structures, also using the skills at risk of being lost or becoming rare or very specialist.

"This 'Eco Future, Heritage Past' project aims to address this knowledge deficit and to prepare the region's construction workforce for these new technologies and contraction techniques for developments, applying concepts to retro-fitting existing buildings and also the skills set to maintain and work on heritage projects and listed buildings.

"In addition, the college is also embracing the changes in the technical curriculum and will be early adopters of the new T level qualifications and the 'Eco Future, Heritage Past' project will enable the delivery of the new T Levels in: On-site construction and also Building Services Engineering.

"Within both of these new qualifications there is a far greater focus on sustainability, building technology and digital technologies."

As it stands any funding from GFirst LEP is far from a done deal. Not least because they organisation has to wait at least until after the Chancellor's Budget in March before it knows its own financial situation.

And, as Punchline understands the organisation, the organisation charged with driving the county's economy - which has already made possible numerous successful high-profile projects county-wide - has more than 30 funding bids sitting in its in-box.

If GFirst LEP funded them all Punchline believes you could add a couple of noughts on the end of the request from SGS College and still come up short.

GFirst LEP would not comment at this stage.

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