Stewart Milne's offsite construction hub targets skills threat to UK housing

Stewart Milne Timber Systems has joined forces with two Edinburgh universities and industry partners CCG Construction Group to develop an offsite construction training centre at its Oxfordshire facility.

Working alongside Napier and Heriot-Watt Universities, the Witney-based hub aims to develop industry-focused and interactive training to create a skilled offsite construction workforce.

The centre of excellence will go some way to addressing the UK's ‘triple threat’ to building new homes – shortages of materials, skills and quality new housing.

The hub includes a product gallery, conference centre, and learning centre which gives visitors the chance to visualise the construction process end-to-end, view training videos, interact with the latest technology and take part in simulations. It also includes a “training rig” to allow hands-on experience of the real-life process of construction.

The project is part of a wider national initiative, run by the UK Commission for Employment & Skills, which is looking at innovative ways to tackle the skills shortage in offsite construction.

Stewart Dalgarno, director of product development at Stewart Milne Group said: “The UK’s shortage of housing is well-documented, but solving a challenging problem is made even harder by a persistent and chronic lack of skilled labour. Currently there are not enough people to build the UK’s shortfall of homes.

“Realigning the industry around offsite construction with timber systems means the UK will be less constrained and less dependent on current trades skills.

“The project is the beginning of an answer to this triple threat to the country’s housing ambitions, and having experts from industry and academia working together means we are in a strong position to deliver something meaningful for the good of the whole industry and the UK housing market.”

Dr Robert Hairstans, head of the centre for offsite construction and innovative structures at Napier University, said: “Offsite systems are more technically advanced due to the inherent quality assurance process of a factory environment and adoption of lean production principles.

“Bringing these advanced systems together on-site requires a new skill level. Stewart Milne Timber Systems’ investment in the process of upskilling is admirable, and the new centre of excellence being launched is a showcase of what can be achieved through collaboration.”

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