Fears that Norfolk’s Constructionarium could close if CITB leaves county

The National Construction College at the CITB at Bircham Newton. Picture: Ian Burt

The National Construction College at the CITB at Bircham Newton. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

Fears have been raised that the departure of the Construction Industry Training Board from west Norfolk could also spell the end for a pioneering training centre.

The Constructionarium is a hands-on training facility which gives undergraduates experience of designing and building their own projects, with the space to recreate small-scaled versions of world landmarks.

Though it is run by a separate organisation to the Construction Industry Training Board, it shares the same site at Bircham Newton and its students use the facilities such as accommodation blocks and the canteen.

The Constructionarium, responding to concern from the union Unite that it would be at risk of closure if the CITB pushes ahead with its plan to close its headquarters in west Norfolk, said it would continue to work at the site beyond the end of its lease in December 2018.

However, that could mean moving to several sites in different regions, said development manager Julia Stevens.

“New sites are currently being finalised to enable us to move towards a regional provision from spring 2019, she said. “We are working closely with CITB during this transitional period and we will continue to have a presence at Bircham Newton until the summer of 2019.”

The decision to set up new regional sites was to be closer to its customers and built on its 15-year history of training students.

Jerry Swain, Unite national officer for construction, said: “The CITB’s decision to close Bircham Newton and end the direct provision of construction training is littered with unintended consequences. One of these is that the unique Constructionarium project, which is key to attracting delegates into the industry, could close.

“If the Constructionarium was forced to close it will have an enormous impact on the future generations of construction professionals and for skills and training in the industry.”

Last year, some 900 students and 160 university staff attended courses at the Constructionarium.

The CITB revealed plans last year to move its head office to its preferred site of Peterborough, and in April released details of how it would cut 800 jobs over the next three years in moves it claims will make it more responsive to the construction industry’s needs.

It will also stop delivering training directly, and is looking for a buyer at the National Construction College at Bircham Newton.

The New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham had been among those to raise concerns about the decision, while a petition has also been launched to keep one of the area’s largest employers.

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Mark Robinson said the latest concerns were more proof the CITB’s plans were “clearly not in the best interests of the long-term future of the construction industry”.

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