Mount Lucas: An innovative approach to meeting non-craft training needs
The National Construction Training Centre’s innovative approach training for non-craft workers and potential construction recruits is helping to fill a gap for site-ready workers. Robbie Cousins learns how it goes about meeting changing industry needs.
By working with industry stakeholders, The National Construction Training Centre at Mount Lucas, Co Offaly, has devised a set of easily adaptable non-craft worker training programmes to meet evolving industry needs
The Centre was built by FÁS in 2008. In January 2016, Laois and Offaly Education Training Boards (LOETBs) took over responsibility for the centre with the dual goal of developing construction skills for youth and unemployed in Laois, Offaly and the surrounding counties, and developing experienced workers’ skillsets to meet changing industry needs.
Mount Lucas’s Remit
Mount Lucas’s remit covers non-craft worker training and certification of New Entrants and Experienced Workers in the National Construction Skills Certificate (CSCS). It also offers an Employment Skills for Construction (Formwork) Programme tailored to industry needs. In addition, Mount Lucas administers the CITB UK changeover programme for Irish CSCS cardholders who wish to attain recognition to allow them to work in the UK by completing the UK Health Safety & Environmental (HSE) Test, the compulsory pre-clearance test that enables entry to work on UK sites.
You might ask ‘why the latter programme is provided when workers are in such short supply in Ireland’. Irish contractors may be aiming to meet demands in Ireland, but quite a number also export their expertise to the UK and need their teams to be appropriately certified. This is an example of how working with industry and taking a responsive approach to planning its programmes adds the Mount Lucas story to growing compendium of recent Irish construction success stories.
All services provided at Mount Lucas are funded and supported by SOLAS with the training provision delivered under a Contract Training (CT) structure which facilitates the flexibility and innovation necessary to respond to industry and concurrently meet the specific needs of people who are unemployed, under-employed, or are in employment but requiring new or enhanced skills.
531 completed programmes in 2016
During 2016 – its first year operating under LOETB – 531 participants completed programmes at Mount Lucas. Centre manager, John Kelly says the centre’s focus is on an inclusive partnership approach which consistently includes the key stakeholders; SOLAS, CIF, local employers and the Department of Social Protection in its deliberations.
He explains: “Mount Lucas maintains a collaborative relationship with the Construction Industry Federation and other bodies that guides the training provision to meet developing gaps within the industry. During 2016, for instance, our Employment Skills for Construction (Formwork) Programme was developed in partnership with the SOLAS, Department of Social Protection (DSP), CIF, local construction employers and City & Guilds to train form workers, as a specific need had arisen within the construction sector. The first graduates qualified in February 2017, and many have gone straight into employment within the Industry.”
Mount Lucas pilot programme to meet construction industry needs
That pilot programme, a key part of the State’s national response, through SOLAS, to meet emerging needs in the construction industry has been reviewed and significant changes are being planned for the 2017 provision. This will kick off once the last of the four programmes of the pilot phase come to an end.
Mount Lucas is catering for unemployed people and upskilling them in basic skills that prepare them to work as general operatives or form workers in the industry. Training is provided on site. But much of the preparation for a job in construction occurs during work placement that forms a core element of every programme – and accreditation is provided through City and Guilds.
Simulated work environments
The training at Mount Lucas is provided in a simulated work environment. John Kelly explains: “The facilities at Mount Lucas include a simulated work environment that replicates actual building sites. We have over 15 acres assigned for machinery training. We also have a 700 sq m Construction Hall that is used for small machine training and is currently in use as a workshop for the Formwork programme. All areas in Mount Lucas are set out so participants are trained in Construction skills in real work environments. And like any building site, if participants arrive to site without appropriate Personal Protection Equipment, they are not allowed onsite.”
Close industry relationship
The close relationship with industry has enabled Mount Lucas to give participants – who range from recent early school-leavers to long term unemployed people – real work exposure with employers who assume responsibility for mentoring and monitoring the trainee on-site in return for the opportunity to train an individual, who comes to them site-ready, in the specific approach favoured by that employer. Thus, the trainee is ready to seamlessly step up to employment when a vacancy arises.
LOETB is the State’s training and education arm in its region and thus must ensure that while meeting industry needs it simultaneously facilitates, supports and prepares unemployed people, not merely for a job, but a career in the construction industry. Some of that is attempted through providing a range of skills that are required by industry, but also through developing relationships with employers that ensures training continues long after employment begins.
Training is not confined to unemployed people. As an example, LOETB is currently exploring with City and Guilds the possibility of accrediting, through formal acknowledgement of on-site experience, those who mentor current trainees and can illustrate their skills through work place assessment.
Meeting future needs
LOETB as the governing body of Mount Lucas has initiated a strategic planning process that aims to maximise its benefit to the construction industry, fulfil its national remit and also advance LOETB’s service provision in the areas of education and training in Laois and Offaly. True to form the planning process has taken the collaborative approach with SOLAS, CIF, employers in the industry and other key stakeholders all contributing to its direction.
Mount Lucas is in the process or launching a user-friendly website that will illustrate all the courses that are on offer within the centre. The website will enable trainees and Construction Workers to look at course calendar’s and to make bookings for all programmes.
What graduates have to say about the Form Work Programme
Trainee: Tshesko Onema
Company: Murform Structures Ltd
Site: Facebook, Clonee
Tshesko says: “Completing the course and being given employment by the company that I completed my work experience with has given me a chance to create a future for myself and my family.”
Trainee: Stephen Moran
<h4><span style=”color: black;”>Company: E&R Formwork Ltd </span></h4>
<h4><span style=”color: black;”>Site: Microsoft, Lucan</span></h4>
<p><span style=”color: black;”>Stephen says: “Finishing the course has given me great confidence in my own ability and also the confidence to get full-time employment with E&R Formwork. I am grateful for the course run in Mount Lucas and how it has helped me to get a job in the Construction Industry.”</span></p>
Mount Lucas Centre Programmes
CSCS for New Entrants
Comprises: Theory and practical assessment of machinery skills
Duration: Four days
Candidate requirements: Must hold a valid Safe Pass card
CSCS for existing workers
Comprises: Theory and practical assessment of machinery skills
Duration: One day
Candidate requirements: Must hold a valid Safe Pass card, must have completed a logbook or New Entrants Programme complete with six months’ practical experience on the particular Machine.
UK Changeover Programme
Comprises: Skills interview, skills theory touch screen test
Duration: Two hours per category
Candidate requirements: Must hold a valid card for the Category sought and must fill out an application form.
How to apply: Contact the centre website www.mountlucas.ie
Construction Skills (Form Work or General Operative Programmes)
Comprises: Ten weeks on site at Mount Lucas, and four to six weeks work placement on a construction site
Duration: 14-16 weeks
Candidate requirements: Must be referred from the DSP
How to apply: Contact the centre website www.mountlucas.ie or contact the local DSP/Intreo office.