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Slough Borough councillors discuss proposals for construction training centre

The prospect of a construction training centre to plug a skills gap among youngsters was met with enthusiasm at a Slough Borough Council (SBC) cabinet meeting on Monday.

SBC director of regeneration gave a presentation on the plan, which has the working title of the ‘Slough Construction Centre of Excellence’, at the meeting at St Martins Place, Bath Road.

He said with imminent parliamentary vote on a new Heathrow runway and several large scale construction projects in the town, now is an opportune time to train the borough’s youngsters up for careers across the construction industry.

He said: “There’s going to be quite a severe shortage, particularly in the construction industry, going from basic bricklaying work right to managing directors of construction companies. There already is, it will get worse.”

He said the council plans on collaborating with a number of partners including SEGRO, East Berkshire College and Slough Urban Renewal to provide training.

He said the centre ‘might well be a virtual academy that will probably not exist in some physical presence.

The project could include getting relevant partners involved with schools and colleges to open up doors for youngsters while they are deciding on their career paths.

SBC leader Cllr James Swindlehurst (Lab, Cippenham Green) said “This is all about getting architects and quantity surveyors qualified as much as it’s about the usual bricky work we wee at East Berkshire College.”

SBC deputy leader partly blamed the town’s skill shortage on a lack of Government investment.

She said: “We don’t have a Labour government in control at the moment but had there been one, I truly believe that we wouldn’t have the skills gap we have currently.”

After the meeting, SBC head of economic growth and enterprise Simon Hall said a number of reasons were behind the borough’s skills gap including an imbalance of youngsters wanting to go into certain highly paid fields, compared to others.

He said that there are an excess of law graduates to vacancies in the profession but there is a skills gap in the construction industry of 80,000 to half a million people nationally.

He also said Brexit could cause an issue in the future, due to the large number of eastern Europeans current working in construction.

He called the Slough Construction Centre of Excellence a chance ‘to turn the whole of Slough into a learning development experience.’

Councillors also approved plans for a £4m demolition budget to knock down the Montem Leisure Centre and the North West Quadrant of the disused Thames Valley University site to make way for development projects.

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