22 October 2021

Bedford College opens Connolly Centre for Modern Construction

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To deliver a zero carbon future we need a skilled workforce at trade, technician and professional level – but who will train them and where will they train?


Bedford College’s new Connolly Centre for Modern Construction was opened on 20 October 2021 by Mark Farmer, the Government’s champion of Modern Methods of Construction. It will train hundreds of students in MMC in addition to the occupational skills in carpentry, joinery, plumbing and electrical engineering already delivered.


Working with the government, industry, professionals and associations, Bedford College is at the forefront of developing relevant qualifications that address the occupational skills needed for a sustainable future and a zero carbon world.


Left to Right: Ian Pryce – Principal & Chief Executive, Bedford College; Dave Wilkins – Director of Construction & Building Services; Judith Barker – SEMLEP (South East Midlands LEP); Mark Farmer – CEO & Founding Director, Cast Consultancy; Andrew Rowe – Connolly Foundation Trustee; and Charles Whitbread – Wixamstree Trust.


Ian Pryce CBE, CEO of The Bedford College Group (TBCG), commented: “We are closing that gap which we see between what happens in industries, and what is taught in college.”


Mark Farmer congratulated Ian and TBCG team for their vision: “This facility will be helping to re-shape how we deliver construction in the future. It meets the Government agenda for skills and sustainability, and I can see it being an exemplar for the rest of the country.”


The Centre is installing state of the art equipment for both light gauge steel and timber frame manufacture, along with a gantry crane with a 3.2 tonne lifting capacity.


David Wilkins, Director of Construction and Building Services at Bedford College, explained: “We are excited to have this equipment at our new specialist Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) Centre. This will give students a hard-hat head-start when it comes to employability skills in the modern construction industry.


“There are huge opportunities here for training young people for great jobs in the future – be it 16-year-olds embarking on apprenticeships, those undertaking the new T-Levels, others progressing on to degree-level higher education courses, and those in the industry who want to modernise their skills.”


Tabitha Binding, TRADA’s University Engagement Manager, added: “This is the start of a much-needed change in the educational approach to bring zero carbon and timber knowledge and skills to our future built environment construction professionals. We look forward to engaging our diverse membership as we work with Dave and his team.”


Timber Development UK, formed from the merger of TRADA and the Timber Trade Federation, and the Trussed Rafter Association are working closely with the Bedford College to embed essential timber, sustainability and supply-chain knowledge into the courses. If you would like to get involved, please email Tabitha Binding on tbinding@trada.co.uk.


The Connolly Centre of Modern Construction (CMC) at Bedford College has been made possible by funding via regional agency SEMLEP of £2.9 Million, £750,000 donated by the Connolly Foundation towards the very latest construction equipment inside the building and a grant of £10,000 from the Wixamtree Trust.


About the author

TRADA’s Tabitha Binding drives our busy University Engagement Programme, which proactively seeks to encourage lecturers of architecture, engineering and other building-related courses to teach timber as an equal to other materials. To facilitate this, TRADA has developed a range of free teaching materials, runs high-profile design competitions for students, and creates opportunities to collaborate, uniting universities with members of the timber industry. If you would like to work more closely with us, please get in touch with Tabitha Binding on tbinding@trada.co.uk or 07815 948749.