Further Education Colleges in Cheshire and Warrington have received a £260,000 grant from the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to help implement the digital skills in construction project. The grant will support the development of Advanced Construction Training (ACT) across Cheshire and Warrington, with the main hub situated at Warrington & Vale Royal College’s Warrington campus and spokes at Cheshire College South and West, Macclesfield College, Reaseheath College and UTC Warrington.

Partner colleges, the UTC Warrington and employers will work together to develop, commercialise and promote digital technologies and skills training for the construction industry. The ACT project will support the practical and commercial challenges faced by construction companies and support them to adopt digital and automated/ robotic construction techniques such as augmented and virtual reality, digital scanning of land and mass production through digital routers. In doing this, the project will assist the industry to build high-quality, smart, green, and efficient building infrastructures, faster, cheaper, and more sustainable than ever before.

New specialist equipment will enable the partner colleges to develop into sub-regional ‘centres of excellence’ for advanced construction that meets employers and the LEP’s stated ambition to raise levels of productivity and innovation to compete at the highest level. In addition to the partner colleges, the specialist equipment will be accessible to employers, other training providers and schools across Cheshire and Warrington and the sub-region.

Rachel Kay, principal & chief executive of Macclesfield College said: “This equipment gives our students access to the very latest technology and helps us attract new talent that are digital natives into a sector that isn’t known for its commitment to digitisation.

“The augmented reality (AR) headsets allow learners to overlay the finished building in situ on site, so progress can easily be monitored and checked. The additional 15 workstations in college provide links into the detailed completed model in BIM software, skills which are in demand from industry. The workstations link directly to Virtual Reality (VR) headsets that allow learners to inspect and walkthrough completed designs in a virtual environment”. 

“The investment from the LEP will enable the college to deliver enhanced digitalised construction training, ultimately supporting growth in the construction and associated industries and meeting the need for digitally-skilled structural engineers and surveyors. The ACT will have great synergy with one of the college’s other LEP funded projects, our new AMET Centres, which focus on teaching digital and advanced engineering. Combined, the two projects will closely align with the aspirations of the government’s ‘Transforming Construction Challenge’’.

Clare Hayward, chair of the Cheshire and Warrington LEP, said: “By improving access to digital skills training we are helping to create employment opportunities for local people and supporting businesses by addressing key skills gaps.  ACT is one of Macclesfield College’s projects to receive backing, bringing the total we have invested to £820,000 – this investment will positively impact individuals, businesses and therefore the region.”