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In the fifth of our interviews with lecturers at IOC member colleges, we talk to Mike Needham, Shrewsbury Colleges Group.

Shropshire’s economy, according to its County Council statistics, mostly comprises small businesses, with many working in managerial, technical and professional or semi-professional occupations, and this influences local employment, says Shrewsbury Colleges Group’s Director of Communications, Mike Needham. 

Housebuilding demand

“Across the county, some 30,000 homes are due to be built in the next few years,” relates Mike Needham.  “This means we have a great demand for students and apprentices in carpentry and joinery as well as construction.  Development is taking place on both brownfield and greenfield sites across the county, with a lot of investment going into the M54 corridor area.  There are large employer companies like Jaguar based locally, who are also relocating their R&D facility to the area,.This is fuelling the need for more housing, and thus opportunities in site carpentry for construction.  We are also close to Birmingham and to large construction firms like Wates,” Mike Needham says.

“Shropshire is a great commuting county: lots of people working in cities favour living here, and there is a massive growth in development in villages across the county. Shropshire as a county is quite rural and people here have a natural affinity for the use of traditional materials and methods, as well as an appreciation of quality builds and bespoke work. This favours the joinery sector, with many opportunities for advanced bench joinery apprentices like those on our Level 3 Bench Joinery course. 

Growth area

“We have a strong relationship with employers and with the local community, and there is a strong demand for our carpentry and joinery courses. It’s definitely a growth area both with students and employers! We are increasing the number of classes that we run to help to cope with the demand. 

“Wood is a great material for helping the planet with climate change, particularly since wood in buildings has a longevity that goes way beyond the disposable culture of the past.  People are coming to appreciate that traditional skills and bespoke work are valuable, and this can only mean good business for employers, and many more opportunities for our students. We have a great reputation for training apprentices, with the new apprenticeship standard in carpentry and joinery, apprentices that have trained at SCG have a 100% success rate” Mike Needham reports. 

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