A newly-launched National Construction Skills Academy (NCSA) in Portadown is to provide 10 full-time jobs for its first intake of students.

The NCSA, based at Industry Training Services (ITS), provides tuition across several trades including groundworks, joinery, bricklaying, plastering, tiling, structural steel erection and steel-fixing.

Its initial course in groundworks – a unique qualification for the industry – will commence in September, with several employers pledging to provide jobs for the 10 participants.

The centre was established as a sister-company to ITS, Northern Ireland’s largest provider of health and safety training solutions to the construction, utilities and civil engineering sectors and beyond.

ITS Managing Director Brendan Crealey said the commitment from employers illustrated a desire from companies in the construction industry to boost the size and quality of their workforce.

He commented:

“The Academy has been set up because many of our clients, including some of Northern Ireland’s largest building and utilities firms, have told us a major skills shortage is hampering their growth plans.

“Our first intake of students will now have a clear pathway into a job at the end of the groundworks course, such is the interest from employers.”

Among firms to have committed to take on course graduates are McNicholas Construction, Morrow Contracts, AG Wilson, NuLine Utilities, Mills Contracts, RMG contracts and Cole Groundwork Contracts.

The NCSA was formed following a succession of industry reports highlighting a growing skills gap across the construction sector in the years since the economic downturn.

Brendan said there had also been huge demand from his client base of more than 3,500 firms for additional training, particularly in groundworks, to address the shortage.

He added:

“We developed our unique groundworks qualification because that is what our client base told us was required.

“For building firms, it means that as new contracts come online, they can get a group of workers trained to a high standard within a short timeframe, ready to go onto site.

“It also means that individuals who apply to attend the Academy will have a clear pathway into employment.

“The programme covers a wide variety of general skills required on site including foundations, drainage, kerbing and paving.”

Terry McCrum, Morrow Contracts, added:

“We are delighted to commit to the new National Construction Skills Academy.

“The availability of high-quality training from a provider which, as a long-term client, we already trust, is a welcome addition to the industry.

“The introduction of a groundworks qualification is particularly pleasing and we look forward to welcoming our new recruits from the course later this year.”

For more information or to apply for a place at NCSA, contact 028 3839 8700 or visit www.ncskillsacademy.com.