Kirkstall Forge courses and apprenticeships providing hope for young and older learners

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Ewan Metcalf with members of the employability skills course at the Forging Futures campus at Kirkstall Forge.

By John Baron

Local people young and old to take advantage of training and apprenticeship opportunities at a pioneering training facility at the £400 million Kirkstall Forge development.

The Forging Futures Campus is an on-site learning facility aiming to fill the skills gap in the construction induistry, providing on the job learning for its students, who can get hands-on experience and mentoring from contractors on site.

The campus was set up on site by Forge developers CEG in 2017, out of a desire to provide real opportunities and sustainable pathways to employment and to tackle the skills shortage in the construction industry. 

Overseeing the courses in Ewan Metcalf, who is managing director of training organisations ICON Group and I Consult Ltd.

He started his working life as a labourer on building sites back in the 1980s and values what Forging Futures is trying to achieve – not least because he feels he would have benefited from this kind of guidance when he was younger. He told WLD:

“Maybe people don’t know their next step is or maybe they’re marginalised. We’re ultimately here to help support people. Forging Futures is changing lives.

“CEG wants to deliver a legacy with this development and move people onto permanent work. They’ve thought about how they can work with the people from, Armley, Bramley, Burley, Kirkstall and Pudsey and made them feel welcome here. They’re helping people to educate themselves and find employment, which means Kirkstall Forge is open to all and people can engage with it and that it has social value.

“Every family in the city should know that there is a place where you will be invested in and where you will be helped to move on with your life.

“5,000 people used to work here when it was a working forge, and we hope in the next 10 to 15 years we’ll have 5,000 working here again.”

The Forging Futures campus, which is about to officially launch new training facilities, offers a 15-week traineeship programme, which offers functional skills to young people not yet ready for an apprenticeship. 70% of attendees go onto sustainable work or an apprenticeship.

An apprenticeship academy also offers opportunities at Kirkstall Forge and Temple Works in Holbeck, which is also being developed by CEG.

And a site operations qualification, focussing on different skills within the the industry – such as working at height, asbestos, using tools, health and safety etc. The qualification allows people to gain new skills and is open to anyone from age 19 through to 65.Ewan refers to this course as ‘gold dust’ and a chance for people. to gain more skills to open up opportunities.

Also at Kirkstall Forge, the Leeds branch of the social enterprise The Skill Mill has been running since February 2016, providing work and training opportunities on-site at Kirkstall Forge for young people who have been involved with the Youth Offending Service.

And there is also a programme for people with learning disabilities.

The Forging Futures campus is due to start recruiting on the eight-day site operations qualification starting late May/early June and the next traineeship programme starting next month.

New apprentices will be sought when building work at the development restarts following a pause due to the pandemic and Brexit, with the building of the first phase of the residential development on the site.

For more information, either e-mail hello@icongroup.org.uk or follow this link.

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