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Weston College of Further and Higher Education has grown from a £9m turnover college in 2001, to one of the largest further and higher education colleges in the country, recognised regionally and nationally for the focus on quality training and education, and close alignment with the needs of employers and industry.

Since 2001 and under the leadership of Dr Paul Phillips CBE, the College has achieved Ofsted outstanding and secured TEF Gold status, recognition of standards delivering higher education up to degree level.

This has all been achieved through growth of provision, with the college being a national centre of excellence for its provision for students with disabilities (SEND), a growing and award winning apprenticeship programme, and also education provision in prisons across the South of England. Regardless of the type of training offered, there is a relentless pursuit of excellence built around the core mission of Weston College: creating brighter futures.

The College has invested in creating industry-standard construction facilities within the past 5 years, working closely with employers to deliver their training requirements. . The South West Skills Campus is the hub of engineering and construction training, and is also the location of the recently launched West of England Institute of Technology (IoT) which has a focus on offering higher level technical skills training, offering an alternative to traditional university offerings.

The IoT has a focus on the Digital, Advanced Engineering and Health sectors. Further investment 2019 created a new Construction Training Centre, a modular build facility providing training in Scaffolding, Plant, Groundworks, Logistics, Warehousing and Health & Safety. Through this centre, in partnership with industry, the College has embraced the use of technology, training heavy plant operators through GPS guidance systems and using simulation to safely introduce operators to practical scenarios in a safe environment.

Steve Caldwell, Dean of Faculty for Construction offers his perspective. “We pride ourselves on strong partnerships with industry, ensuring that our training is delivering highly-skilled, confident employees for employers. Through our partnership approach, we test our curriculum and strategy with employers, gaining their validation that our programmes support their needs.”

“As we all know revolutions and evolutions are taking place within the Built Environment because of numerous and varied drivers for change. These include a national housing crisis, an ageing workforce accompanied with a skills shortage, a lack of social mobility within the industry and a drive to improve energy efficiency and build quality. Here at Weston College we want to be further ahead of the industry curve, so we are able to equip our learners with the skills, knowledge and behaviours needed for the present and future.”

“This is where our challenge lies. Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) is very much here and more changes are afoot. MMC covers such a broad spectrum of construction activity, where do we, an education partner, begin to focus our energies to ensure we are getting it right regarding future trends and innovations? More importantly for us, it’s a better understanding of the skills and foundations that young people need in order to be workforce ready – for now and in the future.”

As an Ofsted Outstanding college, with over 800 students within our construction related training programmes, Weston College is inspiring the future generation of the construction industry, from future bricklayers, plumbers, scaffolders to Civil Engineers.

There is a commitment to innovate and evolve with industry, and to continue developing partnerships with employers in order to gain a better understanding of the developing modern construction environments. Armed with this knowledge and insight, the College will continue in their mission to create a skilled workforce for the construction industry.

The question being asked by Weston College and the education sector is how can employers and colleges collaborate to embed the innovations of industry and deliver the skills required in a time when industry is evolving with MMC? To have your say and join the conversation register for this webinar on………….

A piece of thought leadership from Martyn Jones

At the risk of overusing the phrase, construction is facing unprecedented change.  As we know Change requires Innovation and innovation requires Learning. These forces are driving us to rethink the way in which we design and deliver our projects, the tools and technologies we use, and the roles we need to play in a greener, more seamless, value-driven, customer-focused, development process.

But how do we go about nurturing more innovative organisations, project teams and value chains? Slipping into the language of football punditry, the words that keep cropping up time and time again in the meetings I attend are “we need to change our culture”.

But changing an organization’s culture is one of the most difficult leadership challenges, never mind changing the culture of a value chain or a whole industry. That’s because organisational cultures are complex, comprising an interlocking and embedded set of goals, roles, processes, values, communication practices, behaviours, beliefs, attitudes and assumptions.

That’s why single-fix changes, such as the introduction of Partnering, or Lean, or Agile, or Scrum, or Knowledge Management, or some other new approach, may appear to make progress for a while, but over time the deeply embedded and interlocking elements of the organizational and inter-organisational culture can take over and then the change is inexorably drawn back into the existing way of doing things.

Bringing about radical change in a whole industry is very challenging but back in 1998 that’s what  Sir John Egan and his Task Force called for construction to do.  That was the same year Google was launched. So where better to look for insights into nurturing an innovative culture during the last couple of decades than Google?

They have spent the last couple of decades or so thinking about how to maintain and improve a culture that fosters transformation and innovation, and with remarkable outcomes. Vinton G. Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, has shared the five lessons they have learnt in growing and sustaining their clearly successful culture of innovation.

1 Sustaining competitive advantage cannot be achieved with technology alone
Cerf argues, surprisingly perhaps,  that in their experience technology on its own is not offer the complete answer. He says that every day Google needs to rethink how their people, structures, and processes interact. He says, “Our teams must have systems and processes that keep then engaged, amplify their ability to innovate and keep then consistently looking to the future”. 

2. Measure, make decisions, and be transparent in that process
Measurement is at the heart of everything they do at Google. They measure everything – from how their systems are running, to how productive they are, to how people are feeling. And they collect anecdotal information as well as quantitative data as they see both as being necessary to inform change.

Once they have gathered and interpreted the data and made a decision, it’s time to actually put those changes into motion. They argue feedback systems only work when people believe changes will be made as a result of their feedback. The trick is to ask the questions and then actually do something with the result and use it to judge how well their organizational structure and processes are working.

Transparency is another important part of the Google way. Cerf says, “It’s important that we are transparent about the feedback we heard, and how we went about addressing it. Being transparent as a company increases customer trust on one hand, and employee trust on the other. It’s important that people understand why we prioritized the changes we made. That’s core to Google’s DNA.”

3. Don’t be afraid of failure
This is a difficult one for construction given the risks involved and our embedded blame culture but we need to recognise that – as in the field of science for example – more is learnt from failure than from success. If you ask why something didn’t work, you often learn more than you would have if it actually did work. Cerf again: “At Google, we try a lot of things out that don’t work – and then learn from them and refine our practices. And eventually, we hope, they get to the point where the things that we want to work actually do work.”

4. Don’t forget that culture is always a work in progress
Over time, as the scale of Google grows and the mix of people joining changes, they have to remind people about the cultural norms that they would like to maintain. As Cerf says, “You have to periodically refresh the cultural elements that matter.

For example, one of the things that Google tries to accomplish is to give people the freedom to try things out, which resulted in a policy of allowing engineers to spend 20% of their time doing things that they weren’t originally assigned to do. People use [their] 20% of time to learn outside of their assigned duties and it actually acts as a stabilizing component of employee satisfaction.”

5. Stay open
Don’t think that you have all the answers. In fact, the probability is very high that you don’t have very many of them at all. Take advantage of opportunities to share knowledge with your colleagues, your friends, even your competitors to better understand what others have learned in order to solve the same problems you have. Google “see openness as a friend”.

The same thing is true when it comes to not taking all the credit. It’s important to acknowledge other people’s contributions because it gives them the incentive to continue contributing. And so, this kind of openness of spirit is just as important as openness of ideas.

What can construction learn from Google?
Taking ideas from other sectors of the economy is problematic but there some takeaways from the Google experience that can be applied to changing construction’s culture.  Technology alone does not guarantee success. We need a culture that supports and accelerates change and which nurtures innovation and learning.

People have always powered technology, and today that’s especially true as teams must harness new technologies and collaborate to solve the big problems we face and make the most of the opportunities too. Openness of spirit is just as important as openness of ideas.

The cultural elements that matter have to be periodically refreshed. Transparency increases trust, within the organisation but also upstream to clients and downstream to suppliers. Nurturing a culture of innovation helps lead to the identification of new opportunities and actions to create new ideas to tackle the unprecedented challenges we face and exploit the emerging opportunities.

Listen Now

Graham Watts, chief executive of the Construction Industry Council joins Andrew Carpenter as he deconstructs the construction industry. Graham was manager of Great Britain’s fencing team at the 2008 Summer Olympics and Chairman of the National Dance Awards.

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