THE UK construction sector is in the grip of a nationwide skills shortage.

According to the Chartered Institute of Building, around 150,000 new workers will need to be employed by 2021 in order to keep up with current demand.

An estimated one million homes are expected to be built by 2020.

With the expansion of its Clacton campus, Colchester Institute has invested around £150,000 in tackling this shortage.

By investing in Tendring, which has higher than average unemployment levels, the college hopes to encourage people to take an interest in fields including plumbing, brick laying, carpentry, joinery and kitchen fitting.

Adam Ward, director of STEM Innovation at Colchester Institute, said: “There is an opportunity in Tendring, where people may be in low-income type work, seasonal work, to take an opportunity and earn more money.

“The crucial part of it really is trying to allow adults to try and pursue a different career in construction, perhaps people unlucky enough not to be in work at the moment.”

The expansion includes the construction of two new workshops and hundreds of additional college places.

“We already had some provision for plumbing, carpentry, we are extending it out to include trades such as bricklaying and tiling,” said Mr Ward.

“While we offered carpentry training, now we can cater to kitchen fitting as well.

“With the number of homes planned we haven’t got enough skilled workers to get these houses built.”

Wages for jobs in the construction industry are expected to continue to grow, making for an attractive career option.

The workshops include industry-standard equipment, allowing students to acquire skills they can apply in work.

The Construction Skills Centre, based in Church Road, provides ‘upskilling’ programmes, delivering safety qualifications and the option of gaining a CSCS card - proof the employee has the right training and qualifications to do the job.

“What the construction industry is telling us is that they need these skills badly,” said Mr Ward.

“They need to have a good work ethic and attitude as well as skills.

“Taking brickwork as an example, we could deliver a full level two or three qualification and it could take three years to reach that.

“But employers don’t want that level of skill, they really want someone who is reliable who can start on the site and over time improve their skills.

“They would need to come in and do 100 hours with us, but it is flexible within reason around initial commitments - someone who is employed for four days a week could get it done fairly quickly.”

“We have had 100 applicants already, which is more applicants than we can cope with.”

“But this could be a bubble that is going to burst.”

He added: “ We have a couple of people come in already who were labourers and wanted to get into bricklaying.

“They had some skill already so within 65 hours with us they are laying bricks.

“These courses offer a way to step up.”

The expansion was supported by Essex County Council, which contributed £50,000 to the new centre, and Phelan Construction, which provided around £15,000 as a sponsor.

Mr Ward hopes Tendring businesses will take notice of the expansion and offer their support to apprentices.

Matt Jolly, pre-construction manager at Phelan Construction, added: “We take this industry-wide problem very seriously and wanted to work with our training provider to develop a tangible, practical solution that could help start tackling this problem.”