First Class Innovation at the Scarborough Skills Village

24 May 2016
Emily Francis, construction student at Scarborough Skills Village
Emily Francis, construction student at Scarborough Skills Village

WITH an acute shortage in skilled tradespeople, our chairman Barry Dodd, CBE shares this thoughts on the importance of anticipating skills shortages, and how Scarborough Skills Village is training students on site and bringing their studies to life. 

“THINKING back to my school days I remember my classmates complaining their studies weren’t relevant, seemed meaningless and didn’t engage them at all. Whilst to some there’s nothing better than discussing theories or reading books, many wanted to be out in the world of work straight away. That may have been a little while ago, but I don’t think things have changed.

These thoughts have been resonating with me recently as some of my work on Inspired People at the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership is about linking businesses to schools. The nature and quality of careers education has fluctuated over the years, and now is the time to bring work to life for our pupils and help those who are interested engage more with businesses. Not only will this help pupils, it also helps employers meet their recruitment needs. Our Skills Manager Annabel Jelley was privileged recently to visit a brilliant example of this that she says works superbly for all involved.

Scarborough Skills Village in Middle Deepdale, North Yorkshire started life to address skills shortages in construction. It is an on-site construction classroom – a muddy field to those in the know, run by Northern Regeneration CIC, Scarborough Borough Council and developers Kebbell Development Ltd, and supported by Keepmoat Homes. Students there go out in all weathers working alongside employees building homes. A number of other partners are also involved. Yorkshire Coast College, Redcar and Cleveland College and not-for-profit recruitment company Scarborough Jobmatch all help co-ordinate onsite activities and link students with employers.

Those involved describe the skills village as a place where students learn first-hand what working in construction is really like. Employers say it’s a perfect showcase for new recruits. What’s best is not just the practical construction training, but learning softer skills like attitude, ethics and communication so essential in a well-run workplace. Employment and Skills Manager Simon Featherstone at Scarborough Borough Council who facilitated the partnership said that whilst some students learned it wasn’t the right environment, many others have thrived on it. Attendance on site is often better than at the college, he said.

As the area’s Local Enterprise Partnership with responsibility for economic growth, Scarborough and its magnificent coastline is a very important site. Not only is it near the £1.5 billion Potash mine anticipated for thousands of jobs, there are also plans for 10,000 new homes.  Faced with a looming shortage of construction workers similar in many other areas across the country, the employment specialists at Scarborough Council knew they had to do something – fast. We commissioned a research report that started some thinking, and Scarborough Borough Council got their heads together with the developers and Northern Regeneration CiC to come up with the idea – a UK first.

The most important benefits at the skills village are to students, training providers and businesses. Practical training in a safe environment; anticipating and responding to skills shortages and marketplace needs – for all sides is surely a win-win. Two years down the line in Scarborough, other construction specialisms are being planned.

One of the most pleasing outcomes for this project is how it is helping women into construction – something which at the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership we are very keen to do. For too long jobs in construction have been largely the preserve of men. Training at the Scarborough Skills Village however, provides the extra support people new to a sector may need. Experience is showing they are jumping at it – and giving the men a run for their money no less. In an era when we have an acute shortage in skilled tradespeople, encouraging women into jobs in these sectors could be an enormous opportunity that must not be missed. And what about the other trades? Is this a model that can be replicated? Representatives from Leeds, Wakefield and Barnsley have already visited the project. In its first year, the Scarborough Skills Village has seen 51 students through its doors and 19 have already got jobs whilst studying. A real success story I think.”