AccXel will bring diversity into construction
By Sarah Wood
A brand new construction training centre in Gloucestershire is set to bring diversity into the industry in the county and beyond.
AccXel is currently being built in Cinderford. It is the first co-funded industry-led construction facility in the UK, founded by Nicola Bird of K W Bell Group and co-funded by K W Bell and the Government's Getting Building Fund, awarded by GFirst LEP.
The centre works in collaboration with education partners, with support from local employers and industry partners,
Nicola's sister, Natalie Bell, is growth and partnership director of AccXel. She said: "It will bring people into construction and encourage diversity. We've been part of companies that talk about doing something like this this, but don't do it. We decided to do something about it."
As part of a third generation construction company, Natalie and Nicola already struggle to find sufficient skilled staff to fulfil their own contracts, let alone to support the requirements of construction companies across the county and the region.
AccXel is set to bring more people into the industry through:
• 300 CITB and industry-recognised qualifications, rising to 500 per year
• 100 pupils per year attending the Introduction to Construction Key Stage 4 school programme, rising to 500 per year
• 80 apprenticeships in year one, rising to 150 in year four
Natalie and Nicola are both big supporters of women in construction and hope that seeing two women at the helm of AccXel will encourage more women to join the industry. The timing couldn't be better, after a recent survey by software company Powered Now showed that 21 per cent of women are considering a career in the trades following Covid.
The sisters haven't always worked in construction. Natalie was a lawyer and Nicola was a lecturer before they decided to move back into the family business.
Natalie, who was chair of Women in Property in South Wales, said: "There are so many opportunities for women in construction, but they just don't know about them.
"There is still a lot of stigma and barriers to women in construction. It's intimidating even at office level and even more so on site. But we want to change that.
"You still find women that women in construction are in HR, admin or accounts, they're not in technical roles like surveying and design.
"The beauty of AccXel is that it's run by two women. A big drive of ours is to go out to Gloucestershire schools and explain to 14 and 15-year-olds what opportunities there are in construction, especially for women."
AccXel is set to open its doors and welcome its first learners in January 2022.
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