High tech, low carbon colleges to train 21st Century workers

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A £2bn strategy to develop new low carbon colleges marks a radical new approach to the delivery of public buildings, John Denham the secretary of state for Innovation and Skills has announced.

For the first time, contracts will be required to spell out how they will deliver on-site apprenticeships and work-based learning.

Building Colleges for the Future outlines detailed proposals for the largest ever further education building works programme, which will see £2.3 billion invested over the next three years.

It will provide every community with state of the art further education facilities, and over 150 colleges throughout England are set to benefit. The strategy will ensure that all new facilities are zero carbon by 2016, two years ahead of the government's target for public sector buildings.

For the first time in any major procurement programme companies that are paid to deliver the work will be contractually obliged to invest in the skills and training needs of their staff, thereby ensuring that local people will benefit from new work opportunities.

All contractors accessing public funds to build colleges will be expected to put in place formal training plans to maximise local people’s access to work based learning.

The announcement follows the prime minister's speech in January this year in which he said major infrastructure projects should also lead to investment in apprenticeships.

The document sets out new requirements for all capital works projects to be environmentally sustainable. By 2016 all new colleges will be zero carbon, two years ahead of the government's 2018 target for all new public buildings.

All projects bidding for further education capital funding will need to:

  • Achieve an ‘excellent’ rating under the Building Research Establishment environmental assessment method, a voluntary code of best practice for sustainable building
  • Meet building regulations which stipulate the minimum energy efficiency requirements of all new buildings
  • Make use of renewable energy – wind and solar power – for heating and lighting
  • John Denham commented: "The record £2.3 billion we are now investing sets out our most ambitious plans yet for sustainable college buildings.

    "We will require all new projects to meet the highest building standards for sustainable design and have a taskforce in place to advise on how we will ensure that all new buildings are zero carbon by 2016. This is two years ahead of the government's target for public sector building announced in the Budget.

    "The strategy will also announce the inclusion of mandatory training plans for apprenticeships and work-based learning in all contracts. This will ensure we get maximum value and training opportunities out of every penny of public investment going into our colleges, and marks the beginning of a radical new approach to public procurement."

    Building Colleges for the Future will be launched today by John Denham at Portsmouth Highbury College, which has recently completed a £12.3 million project with support from the Learning and Skills Council.

    Mark Haysom, Chief Executive of the LSC said: "We're certain that this expenditure will have a positive impact on participation and attainment for both young and adult learners and will meet the needs of employers helping to increase the productivity and competitiveness of the nation.

    "Ensuring world–class teaching takes place in world-class further education facilities, designed for the 21st Century, should be the ultimate goal for everyone involved in education and training."

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