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Hertfordshire to lead sustainable challenge by attracting new talent into offsite construction

Published: 1 December 2021West Herts CollegeStewart Milne Timber Systems has partnered with West Herts College to deliver a new MMC Timber Frame Apprenticeship Programme

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New vocational apprenticeship to help ‘green’ up the industry sector and create a future skills pipeline for sustainable house building

Hertfordshire is to offer a new vocational apprenticeship programme in Timber Frame – MMC (Modern Methods of Construction) thanks to a collaboration between industry and education.

West Herts College is partnering with Stewart Milne Timber Systems (SMTS) as it leads the sustainable challenge, encouraging future workforces to focus on timber frame building solutions.

With around 100,000 new homes needed by 2036, Hertfordshire is committed to scaling up its use of off-site manufacturing (OSM) methods to help speed up housing delivery and meet its net zero carbon targets.

As a leader in off-site, SMTS is working with the Off-site Manufacturing (OSM) Consortium in Hertfordshire, which is led by Watford Community Housing and Hertfordshire Innovation Quarter (Herts IQ) Enterprise Zone, and supported by Hertfordshire Growth Board and Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, to accelerate delivery and build expertise. This will help drive more affordable housing throughout the region, using MMC and offsite manufactured timber frame.

By partnering with West Herts College, 12 students on the two-year programme will gain a Level 2 Apprenticeship in Timber Frame – MMC while also completing theoretical and practical studies in class. The apprentices will work with SMTS trusted supply chain partners, SE Carpentry and Hyspec Carpentry and Construction.

Having taught carpentry at West Herts College for more than 20 years, this new partnership enhances the curriculum offering, relating the key skills developed and nurtured, and applying this to MMC and timber frame construction.

Gill Worgan, Principal and Chief Executive, West Herts College, said: “We are delighted to be leading the drive for sustainable house building in Hertfordshire by providing the skills so desperately needed for this growing sector to thrive. This partnership is an excellent example of the benefits that can be realised when employers and education providers work together.”

West Herts College director, John McMahon said: “This is an exciting opportunity for students to progress to an apprenticeship with a forward-thinking company like Stewart Milne Timber Systems.

“Students really stand to benefit from this partnership. They will pick up a modern qualification in an expanding sector while working with an industry leader – especially with the added focus of this programme on green, sustainable construction.”

As the timber business’ first apprenticeship scheme, the team hopes to replicate the success of parent company, Stewart Milne Group which now has almost 50 apprentices working across the business.

It is this commitment to apprenticeships and hope of attracting people into the sector that appealed to SMTS, who hope that encouraging young people to work primarily with modern methods of construction (MMC) will not only prepare them for the future, where skills shortages, housing demand and sustainable practices is putting pressure on the sector, but ultimately drive the construction industry’s efforts to tackle climate change.

Simon Horn, technical manager at SMTS said: “Timber frame is still regarded in many regions across the UK as a relatively new solution to the housing crisis. However, it’s a construction discipline that SMTS has long been passionate about, and we’re very excited to be sharing this passion with future workforces.

“Many of our team ‘started on the tools’ as apprentices, and we’re thrilled to now pass on our experiences. This is a great opportunity for young people to get involved, especially at a time when climate change and sustainable building practices is high on the agenda across the UK.”

Adrian Hawkins OBE, Chair, Hertfordshire LEP’s Skills Advisory Panel, said: “This apprenticeship programme will quite literally build the net zero skills needed for the future and support Hertfordshire’s green recovery. The over-arching ambition of our revised Skills and Employment Strategy is to enable Hertfordshire’s key sectors to flourish by developing a skilled workforce that responds to industry needs. By working hand in hand with business and education providers, Hertfordshire LEP can help drive sustainable growth and harness opportunities for all.”

Richard Whitehead, Chair, Herts IQ, said: “With Herts IQ, we’re creating the right conditions for offsite manufacturers and supply chains to innovate, collaborate and thrive in Hertfordshire. Now thanks to this industry collaboration, Hertfordshire is nurturing the skills needed to support a green recovery and deliver a raft of environmentally friendly benefits for residents.”

Patsy Dell, Director of Growth, Hertfordshire Growth Board said: “Hertfordshire is heralding a new era of housebuilding by embracing offsite to help deliver homes at scale to meet our future needs. This partnership will enable Hertfordshire to deliver the construction skills it needs to not only accelerate housing delivery but ensure that it is underpinned by best practice in design and sustainability, creating homes fit for the future that will support generations to come.”

Find out more

The apprenticeship programme will start in February 2022 with places available to book on to now:

A video ‘Partnering with West Herts College on their Apprenticeship Programme’ – is available to view here:
Stewart Milne Timber Systems has partnered with West Herts College to deliver the new apprenticeship programme in timber frame MMC
MMC Apprenticeships Programme
Greening the construction sector: Modern Methods of Construction can accelerate the building of sustainable housing