When did you decide to get 300 of your construction students involved in building the new Wirral Waters campus?
Students have been involved in the design and build of the new Wirral Waters Campus from the very beginning, at the planning stage. In fact, the requirement for the appointed contractor to provide learning opportunities to Wirral Met students was included in the tender process. Senior managers decided to involve Wirral Met College’s students and teaching staff in the specification of the classroom and workshop areas, so that the new building would meet their current needs, whilst accommodating flexible new teaching and learning approaches using digital learning technologies.
The college has worked closely with contractor Morgan Sindall since its appointment to provide a wide range of learning opportunities involving construction students in the creation of their new campus. A key part of the strategy for the new campus was to support teaching and learning.
What kind of work will the students be doing?
Wirral Met College has been working closely with developer the Peel Group, and Morgan Sindall plc and their subcontractors to provide a variety of work placements during the construction of the new campus, to enable students to get first-hand experience of putting their new skills into practice on a live project. In addition to the bricklaying students who have been working on site to develop their skills, further placements will be provided in areas such as plastering, mechanical and electrical trades, as the internal works on the new building progress. Other training opportunities for higher level professional studies students include work with cladding, glazing and scaffolding subcontractors.
We must also remember that Wirral Met also offers university level education, working with key university partners and higher level students working towards Higher National Certificate/Diploma (HNC/D) courses will also be working on summer placements, on-site with Morgan Sindall on the final stages of the construction of the new campus.
This has been described as a key landmark of the Wirral Waters. Can any student of Wirral College get involved?
To date, the majority of students involved in the project have been those studying construction. Other opportunities include professional engineering studies students and Wirral Met’s horticulture students who will be supporting the Forestry Commission towards the end of the project with tree planting around the new building and, as part of the wider, Wirral Waters plans for urban landscaping. Hospitality students will be involved in the development of the Bistro area and other students from areas including travel, tourism and business will gain from work experience supporting the new Wirral Waters’ Visitors Centre. Arts students will be engaged in the development of public art work that will help to transform the area.
How have you been been mentoring the students?
Wirral Met College has been providing education and training for 161 years and so we have a very well established range of academic and pastoral support which is designed to help students to develop their full potential. Working with Peel and the team from Morgan Sindall on this project has brought a first class element of employer-led influence which is invaluable to the learning experience. Morgan Sindall staff have been welcoming groups of students and staff to the construction site on a fortnightly basis, providing lectures on the specialist areas of construction such as Building Information Modelling (BIM), sustainability issues and waste management, and the importance of health and safety operations. Future lectures will include careers talks on areas including architecture, the property industry and planning regulations, to support higher level students on professional studies courses.
Your new campus hopes to play a significant role in the UK’s biggest regeneration project. After the campus is finished, how do you hope to keep providing students with similar opportunities?
Wirral Met College already has strong links with a large number of employers and the college’s Employer Services team will be located within the new campus, so that the team will be on hand to continue growing our employer-led portfolio. Our job is to support inward investment and economic development of the area by ensuring that organisations who relocate into the Wirral Waters regeneration area can rely on a high quality, pipeline of skilled people to make a difference in their business. We will support their recruitment strategies and continuous workforce development to ensure that their needs are matched with highly qualified people. In the meantime, Wirral Met is now working with contractors on the range of buildings at Wirral Waters’ regeneration project to provide further work experience placements for students, along with apprenticeship opportunities, and traineeships, which prepare young people for apprenticeships. Wirral Met works in partnership with over a thousand employers to help them recruit directly from the talent pool of Wirral Met College students or to retrain and develop their current workforce.
Our current exhibition, Build Your Own, showcases the importance of skill-sharing. How important is it to ensure that students gain first-hand experiences, such as this live project, within their curriculum?
We are dedicated to supporting students to gain the skills and qualifications to help them progress in their chosen career, and work experience is a critical part of the full-time study programmes students undertake. Many Wirral met students are apprentices, so they spend as much time in the workplace as they do in college and working on live projects is the best way to extend opportunities for students to learn and apply their skills, working alongside sector professionals to develop their experience. It is not only the students who benefit, as many employers working with Wirral Met College will tell you, that developing high quality skills and experience can make a huge difference to business efficiency and growth.
Student John Martindale from the Bricklaying Level 1 course saw his skills recognised whilst working on his placement at the Wirral Waters site when he gained the Morgan Sindall Safety Award for the month of April, recognising the safe working practices on the site and employees’ continued compliance with safety rules and procedures.
It's great to see the students being recognised for their work! Will Shannon and Assemble have also been working with local apprentices for their project Homework. Have any of your students gone on to gain apprenticeships in the local community?
We have over 1300 apprentices in many different sector skills areas, working with employers across the City Region. Jake Muir, who has been working alongside professional bricklayers on the Wirral Waters Campus site, impressed contractors Joe Hollingsworth Ltd so much that they decided to offer him an apprenticeship position with the company. After completing his first year at Wirral Met College, he will progress from his bricklaying qualification to an apprenticeship programme.
It is fantastic that current students are so involved in the Wirral Waters Campus so that future generations of students can benefit from the learning opportunities it provides. These students are not just gaining skills, they are an integral part of the creation of Wirral Waters and they will leave their mark in the history of Wirral Met and the ambitious plans for the Wirral Waters Enterprise Zone. As their Principal, I am very proud of this because their work will become a legacy to inspire future generations of students.
Build Your Own: Tools for Sharing is on display in Gallery 1 and the FACT Connects Space until 31 August 2015.