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Construction Centre on schedule to open for students in January

The new-look York College Construction & Skills Centre is on course to open its doors to students in January.

We are currently in week 34 of a 38-week multi-million pound upgrade to the facility which, with the support of Government funding, will see a state-of-the-art extension boast two 650sqm floors.

The first will comprise of a practical workshop for brickwork and joinery students and the second will contain a multi-functional engineering and product design workshop for 3D modelling and prototyping and a Computer Aided Design Suite.

Fittingly, it will firmly cement York College & University Centre’s reputation as the North’s leading provider of technical and construction skills.

Estates and Facilities Manager Geoff Wroe, who also oversaw the relocation project to Sim Balk Lane between 2005 and 2007 and the building of the initial Construction Centre eight years ago, has expressed his pleasure at the progress (see the time lapse footage below) that has been made under the stewardship of main contractors Hobson & Porter.

“Other than a three-week delay right at the beginning due to underground drainage, there have been no further hold-ups and we’re on track for completion on December 15,” Geoff declared. “We’ve then got to fit out with our equipment during a three-to-four week window, but we plan to have students in there by the second week in January.

“I’m pleased – and a bit surprised – that we’re only three weeks behind the schedule that we initially set, but there was a lot of planning that went in before we put out the tender. It was quite a detailed specification and that has also helped manage the quality of the project because you get what you ask for, rather than what might be a contractor’s interpretation and Hobson & Porter have done a good job.

“There’s a master programme that lists all the different elements and stages. Each stage depends on the last one being completed first because, for example, until the piling gets done, there’s not a lot else you can do before you then get the crane in to put up the steelwork.

“You still never know what you might find. There’s always that element of surprise, but we did the archaeological digs when we built the college and nothing was found then, so I was quite relaxed about the survey this time around.

“There will be ongoing works even when we’ve occupied the building, which is common with projects like this. Hobson & Porter also have a good record for being accident free and that has been the case with this project.”

The marquees that students have been working in while the new building is being constructed will be taken down once all the equipment has been moved over in the New Year.

On the work that still needs to be done in the next five weeks. Geoff added: “We’ve ordered the mechanical plant that needs to go in the upstairs labs, along with the plumbing equipment and air-source heat pumps. The final bits left to do on the externals are to finish the brickwork and the render whilst, internally, we’re on with the first fit with the electrical and plumbing before we then move on to the second fits, which will include small gas requirements for the welding set-up we’ll have.

“Then, we’ll be looking at IT and the final infrastructure. All the furniture has been procured, so that has to be put in place, as well as decanting all the stuff from the marquees.”

As well as new state-of-the-art equipment for students in the upstairs lab, an IT fibre connection will be installed to enhance resilience and a female changing room will be provided instead of the current disabled toilet arrangement.

There will also be a big emphasis on sustainability with solar photovoltaic roof panels, air-source heat pumps and natural ventilation heat recovery units all contributing to the aim of establishing the new building as a Carbon Neutral facility.

It will certainly prove more cost effective and environmentally friendly than the diesel generators that have been used to heat the marquees.

Hobson & Porter became the main contractors of the project after the tender for the work was advertised on the YORbuild portal for Yorkshire & Humberside.

The Hull-based firm were then responsible for the appointment of around 20 sub-contractors, assigning Bowman Riley with architectural duties and RPS with the mechanical and electrical work.

At any one time, there have been as many as 30 or 35 people on site and students have been involved along the way, too.

“As part of the YORbuild framework, the contractor has to provide work experience and put on site visits for students, which our Business Partnerships team have helped organise,” Geoff explained. “It’s been a really good grounding for our Construction students to see first-hand how a live build actually works.”

Geoff was joined by Head of Construction Ash Stokes and other College staff members on a tour of the building, conducted this month by Senior Site Manager Dave McCorrie, of Hobson & Porter.

Commenting on the progress that has been made over the past eight months, Ash said: “It’s like the Tardis inside now, but will look a bit smaller when all the equipment and everything else goes in. The lab upstairs, in particular, is a really good size and it will be an amazing facility.

“The Extension will give us the capacity in terms of space to use equipment we’ve not been able to before and to provide the skills that industry employers are looking for. It will be a real, high-tech facility that allows us to meet local employers’ needs now and in the future and will be one of the best facilities in the region when it’s up and running.

“We have tensile and compression testing machines that can be used by all our T Level students in the department to crush concrete for example. It is going to enable us to do so much more than we have in the past because we haven’t had the space, facilities or equipment to do these things. It also opens a whole new gateway to a level of Green Skills and Renewable Technology.”

As well as Building Services T Level students, our Electrical and Plumbing apprentices will be big beneficiaries of the new Construction Centre, as will those who are doing Engineering courses and the HNC Construction & The Built Environment qualification.

With the new facility and ongoing skills shortage in a region where career opportunities are continuing to expand, Ash reasons that there has never been a better time to enrol on a Construction or Engineering course at York College.

“Looking at the local priorities, market intelligence is telling us that Construction and Engineering will be a growth area for several years to come,” he pointed out. “Realistically, we are busier than we have ever been in terms of our enrolment numbers and I can only see that growing now.”

The Global Goals for Sustainable Development

Opportunities such as these, allow us to work towards a better future in line with The Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

The Sustainable Development Goals or Global Goals are a collection of 17 interlinked objectives designed to serve as a "shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future”.

Which of the goals did this project benefit?