The College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) and construction giant Ardmore have launched the London Welding Academy to give a skills boost to the construction industry and support the capital’s economic recovery.
The COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit have exacerbated a national skills shortage in the construction sector with 217,000 new workers needed by 2025.
The number of welders in the UK has fallen by a quarter in five years. Half the nation’s welders are expected to retire by 2027, creating 36,000 new jobs to ease the housing crisis.
The new academy at the college’s Enfield Centre, will provide apprenticeship training for off-site manufacturing specialist Paddington, part of the Ardmore Group based in Brimsdown.
CONEL and Ardmore have committed to running the academy for five years and Ardmore has provided welding masks, equipment and metal to develop apprentices’ skills.
The first group of 20 welding apprentices began their training in January and talks are already under way to extend the academy to include joinery and stonemasonry skills.
Barry Connelly, CONEL’s Strategic Adviser for Engineering Development, said: “Welders are essential to many industries, from shipbuilding, aerospace, oil and gas to automotive, construction, boiler making, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and engineering.
“Welding is no longer the dirty, low paid job that many people imagine. New technologies make it clean, safe and more importantly a well-paid industry.
“Over the past five years the number of welders in the UK has shrunk by approximately 25 per cent, with more than 100 vacancies being advertised on Indeed each month.
“There are a limited number of welding training providers in London, and many do not offer a specific welding apprenticeship to train and develop welders to the professional standards that industry requires.
“That’s why we’re very excited to launch the London Welding Academy with Ardmore, which will provide skilled workers to meet the demands of the industry and support the UK’s economic recovery.”
Ardmore began looking for an apprenticeship training provider in May 2021 after deciding to return to its previous business model of growing and developing its own workforce.
The company worked with CONEL to develop a Welding Level 3 Apprenticeship training programme that will help Paddington fill its skills gap by employing local people on good salaries to work on its developments across the UK.
Apprentices will complete training, which normally takes 2-3 years, within 18 months. Those who successfully qualify are guaranteed jobs with Paddington, working on a range of developments from commercial and residential schemes to world-class hotels.
Cormac Byrne, Managing Director of Ardmore, said: “We’re used to doing things differently at Ardmore. Not many construction companies can boast their own supply chain and create something as important to the local and national economy at such pace.
“We build world-class buildings like the Ned, Corinthia London, and the Four Seasons at Ten Trinity Square, and for that we need world-class craftspeople. What better way to ensure you’ve got those people than by training your own?
“We’re training local people and putting them on some of London’s most important projects. The experience and skills they will get from being part of the welding academy will set them up for fulfilling careers.
“I must also thank CONEL for their help, and support in creating a relationship built on trust and openness, that has allowed us to achieve this goal.
“We’re excited to have already started working with our first cohort of apprentices and look forward to seeing them develop into highly-skilled craftspeople.”
Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Alex Burghart MP declared the UK economy is “hungry for skills” at a construction and engineering conference during National Apprenticeship Week
Mr Burghart praised Capital City College Group (CCCG), which hosted the event, and employers for providing valuable careers and training opportunities when he spoke on 9 February.
CCCG’s apprenticeship and training provider Capital City College Training (CCCT) works with 950 employers to provide high-quality training to 2,000 apprentices each year.
Around 50 representatives from the construction and engineering industries attended the event at Westminster Kingsway College, which is also part of CCCG along with City and Islington College and the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL).
Companies and organisations in attendance included Alstom, Ardmore, Hitachi, CBRE, CITB, Denbre, Berkeley Group, North London Waste Authority, Mitie, Peabody, AECOM, Bowmer and Kirkland, Taylor Woodrow, Vistry Partnerships, Wates, McLaren, TfL, Perfect Welding, Building Heroes, the Greater London Authority, Enfield Council, Islington Council and the Royal Academy for Engineering.
CCCT works with employers across London to offer apprenticeship training in brickwork, plumbing, electrical installations, engineering and rail engineering.
Mr Burghart said: “It’s been a real pleasure for me going around the country meeting scores of people in different stages of their careers and lives who are really benefitting from this extraordinary way of working, whose time is really coming again.
“I don’t remember a time in my lifetime when the economy was so hungry for skills. We’ve got over a million vacancies out there, we’ve got a huge host of opportunities for people to take advantage of, and it’s going to be apprenticeships that are going to help people make the jump into those opportunities.”
Dr Rhys Morgan, Director of Engineering and Education at the Royal Academy of Engineering, called on employers to support the development of T Levels and apprenticeships, and spoke of the need to recruit a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
He said: “We have to make these qualifications work, they are here to stay. I hope you will continue to work with CCCG and the wider education sector to embrace these qualifications and support our young people, who really need to help with the net-zero skills challenges and the economy.”
Construction and engineering apprenticeship training predominantly takes place at CONEL’s large, fully equipped workshops at its centres in Tottenham and Enfield.
Adrian White, General Manager at Ardmore, said: “Ardmore Group has long been committed to providing opportunities for local people to train in well-paid, highly-skilled jobs, and the London Welding Academy is a brilliant example of that.
“We’re delighted to have been able to open this academy within a matter of months, meaning we can develop our own committed and motivated workforce.”
The London Rail Academy provides apprenticeship training with large employers including Alstom, Hitachi, Eurostar, Docklands Light Railway and London Underground.
CONEL also provides rail track maintenance apprenticeships with London Underground.
Alstom has been training apprentices with CONEL for more than four years on its rail technician training programme.
Alstom apprentice Brandon Hargreaves, 23, said: “Working with the teachers at CONEL has allowed me to learn so much and excel in a subject I am passionate about. Being thrown into the reality of the working world in London has been an amazing experience.”
Lee Bird, Learning and Development Apprenticeship Manager at Alstom, said: “What makes CONEL different from other providers is that they listen to our requirements and have the expertise to modify the apprenticeship content and delivery to meet our business needs.”
CONEL has recently partnered with Enfield Council and Vistry Partnerships to run a new Skills Academy to provide construction training for the Meridian Water regeneration project, which will build 10,000 new homes in Enfield.
CCCT’s provision also includes employability courses with organisations including Women into Construction to provide more opportunities for women to enter the sector. Find out more about our Construction and Engineering apprenticeships
With the Government looking to build 300,000 new homes each year there is a huge demand for qualified, skilled plumbers across the UK. To mark National Apprenticeship Week from 4-11 February, Harold Impraim shares how an apprenticeship gave him the skills for a plumbing career.
By his own admission, Harold Impraim was lost after graduating from university.
Despite gaining a business studies degree from the University of Bedfordshire, he found himself stuck working in retail and at a cinema in Enfield.
Five years later he decided to retrain as a plumber and today, Harold, 37, runs his own business, Higreen Plumbing and Handyman Services in Tottenham.
“I wasn’t enjoying work and felt like something was missing, and I wanted to be in control of my future,” said Harold.
“I was trying to find my feet and what I was good at. People that knew me said, ‘You’re quite practical, why don’t you try construction?’ I knew plumbing was a trade that would always give you work, the money was good, and I could potentially start my own company.”
After completing a Plumbing Level 1 Diploma at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL). Over the next two years Harold went on to complete a Plumbing Level 2 Apprenticeship with Capital City College Training (CCCT).
During this time, Harold received an Excellence Award from CONEL.
“I was really excited about plumbing. It didn’t bother me that I was having to go back to college. I knew this is what I wanted to do and what I needed to do to get there,” said Harold.
“I knew I would get hands on experience and learn on the job. I didn’t want to come out with just a certificate. I also didn’t have the money to do a full-time course, but I knew I would get paid on an apprenticeship.”
During his apprenticeship, Harold worked developments including Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, South Quay Plaza building at Canary Wharf and the Elizabeth Line.
He said: “I learnt a lot on my apprenticeship about problem solving, measuring, cutting and fusing pipes, about different systems and heating units, lagging and keeping pipes at the right temperature and how to read blueprints and schematics.
“We could practice and correct mistakes with the help of our teachers. They would share their experience, but it was also down to us to ask questions and show willingness to achieve our goals.”
Harold had no regrets about doing his degree as it has helped him with running his business but in hindsight felt he should have chosen an apprenticeship sooner.
He said: “University was a good experience but if I was to start it again, I wouldn’t have gone and would have done an apprenticeship or an internship for a job I wanted to do.
“I would do an apprenticeship for any job because it gives you experience of what it’s like working in the real world. In the time it took to do my degree, I could have done my apprenticeship training and have been working in a trade.”
Harold was attracted to the variety of work plumbing offered and while he admitted it can be challenging he has also found it a fulfilling career.
“I also like the professional status that comes with it,” he said. “When people ask me what I do for a living, I’m proud to say I’m a plumber.”
The College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) has launched a new Mayor of London Academy Hub to fast-track Londoners into construction and green careers.
The Green Academy Hub will provide skills training to create jobs and help the capital’s economic recovery from the COVID pandemic.
Capital City College Group (CCCG), which includes CONEL, secured £250,000 to run the hub after a successful bid to the Mayor’s Academies Programme.
According to the Construction Skills Network, more than 217,000 new workers will be needed in construction and green industries by 2025.
The new hub will help meet this demand and support the UK’s target to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 with a focus on modern sustainable construction methods, green technologies and the expansion of EV charging points.
CONEL Vice Principal Robin Hindley said: “London is an everchanging city and there is a huge shortage of highly skilled construction workers across the sector, which has been exacerbated by Brexit and the pandemic.
“The industry needs more people to work in skilled trades across the sector to enable them to meet their contractual commitments. The environment is also high on everyone’s agenda with a need to train people new technologies to ensure the UK meets its targets to cut carbon emissions.
“Many employers have already given their firm commitment and support to our Green Academy Hub, and now it’s about building on those relationships, establishing courses and providing the industry with a pipeline of highly skilled, well-paid workers.”
The hub will build on CONEL’s long-standing reputation for providing high quality construction courses including brickwork, plumbing and electrical installations at its centres in Tottenham and Enfield.
It has been backed by employers and industry bodies including the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), Morgan Sindall, Wates, Peabody, Vistry Partnerships, Absolute Solar, Retrofit Works, and the North London Waste Authority.
There will be a strong emphasis on supporting those from under-represented and disadvantaged backgrounds including black and ethnic minorities, low earners, single parents, young people, caregivers, the disabled and unemployed.
Robin said: “We have huge experience in delivering training for this sector with well-established links with employers and a fantastic track record of getting people into work. Being part of CCCG means we also have links more centrally into Islington, Camden, Westminster and surrounding boroughs.”
“Getting people trained and into work to help companies make profits and support the economy is a big part of it, but ultimately if we can build more sustainable developments and use green technologies to reach net-zero and prevent climate change to have a better quality of life, that will be the biggest win for all of us.”
The Green Academy Hub is CONEL’s latest commitment to help more people into work, which also includes a new Skills Academy in partnership with Enfield Council and Vistry Partnerships to provide construction training for the £25 million Meridian Water regeneration in Enfield.
Earlier this year the college launched the London Welding Academy alongside its London Rail Academy in Enfield with the number of welders in the UK having fallen by a quarter in five years.
CCCG was also successful in winning bids to run hubs in Creative, Digital and Hospitality hubs run by CONEL’s sister college Westminster Kingsway College. The Creative Academy Hub is run in partnership with Film London.