All of us need a bit of inspiration occasionally. Well I got it in buckets a couple of weeks ago when I spent the day at the National Construction College at Bircham Newton for its annual awards presentation.
For those who haven’t been to the college, it is at a former RAF station near King’s Lynn and just arriving is pretty awe inspiring. Travelling across the flat Norfolk countryside towards Bircham Newton from several miles away you can see tower cranes looming on the skyline and then the dummy chimneys that are used for training steeplejacks. Closer still, you can see the vast hangers that once housed generations of bombers, but which are now used far less aggressively for all-weather teaching of nearly all the skills needed in the modern construction industry. And when you actually arrive, you see the extent of the site which allows for any aspect of technical training to be undertaken without leaving the complex.
The facilities at Bircham Newton are first class, though it is clear that ConstructionSkills, the owner of the College, is far from complacent and is determined to make further improvements. A couple of years ago plans for enhancement were knocked back as the local council refused a planning application which involved selling off part of the site for housing to raise cash for investment. That doesn’t seem to have hit morale too much as I saw at the awards day.
EMPLOYERS CONTINUE TO SUPPORT COLLEGE
One of the hangers usually used for plant mechanic training had been cleared for the presentation with a stage set imaginatively created with scaffolding and neatly decorated tables set up for the awards, so winners, their families and friends and visitors like me could sit back to enjoy the awards ceremony. After a welcome from ConstructionSkills new Chairman, James Wates, College Director, Andy Walder gave a really up-beat report on the college’s achievements for the last year and plans for the year ahead. Andy paid particular tribute to the employers within the industry, including I am sure, many FMB members who have continued to support the college by sending students to study - despite the difficult trading conditions of the last year or two. Next up was Guest of Honour, world champion athlete Kriss Akabusi. His presentation was brilliantly focussed on the young people starting their careers in the industry. His enthusiasm and energy electrified the room making the event a real celebration of success.
FUTURE LEADERS OF THE SECTOR
The next part was the real reason for the day: Recognising the success of nearly 300 young people who had achieved their apprentice frameworks over the last year across a range of subjects vital to the long-term wellbeing of the industry. Every one of them was made to feel special and for a few there was the added bonus of winning prizes as the outstanding Student of 2010 in their chosen profession. The citations for these winners revealed that many had achieved the highest standards possible in both practical and theory.
The construction industry remains one of the few in which it is still possible to rise from the bottom to the very top. The young people I met at Bircham Newton include many of the future leaders of the sector. With their passion and zeal the UK construction industry has a bright future. Hopefully I will meet some of them again as active members, and perhaps, national office holders within the FMB.
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