A LOCAL authority looks set to invest £125,000 of taxpayers’ money into developing a centre to overcome a shortage in construction skills, boost the local economy and provide more job and apprenticeship opportunities.

Hambleton District Council’s cabinet will consider approving the funding to launch a construction skills village next to a major housing development in the area, such as Sowerby Gateway or North Northallerton, as soon as practical.

In January, the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors said the shortfall in the number of skilled construction workers in the UK had reached its highest point since 2007.

A report to the district council’s committee states both local companies and national housebuilders operating in the area are reporting a lack of available labour force for brick-laying and allied construction trades.

The report states: “Work undertaken with the businesses at Dalton and discussions with companies such as Sirius Minerals has also identified that there are similar issues with more specialist construction skills and the supply chain.”

A Construction Industry Training Board report in 2018 for the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding area found there would be annual construction spending of £1.3bn for the following five years, 49,000 construction workers needed and 5,000 new homes built annually.

The authority believes launching a construction skills centre in the district is important as there are no vocational colleges within the market towns for school leavers to study construction, leaving students having to travel to Darlington, Middlesbrough or further afield.

The cabinet report states the centre would enable the district to retain more skilled younger people helping to address an ageing workforce issue.

It states: “Rural transport means this can be challenging for school leavers and younger learners.”

It is envisaged the centre, for up to 30 learners at a time, would initially focus on trades such as brick-laying and plastering, but could be expanded to other trades within the industry as the scheme progresses.

The council does not expect any ongoing costs after the set-up of the skills village later this year or next year, with a skills provider partner drawing down funds from the Education Skills Funding Agency.

The centre is likely to be modelled on one launched in Scarborough in 2015, which provides site-ready, appropriately certified apprentices into developer companies working in the area.

In three years of operation, the Scarborough scheme has recruited 73 learners on to a study programme and worked with 76 college full-time learners.

It has also created 60 apprenticeship or employment positions, equating to a 40 per cent conversion rate to date, led to more than 3,000 hours of work experience and supported ten pre-16 learners at least one day a week from the local schools.