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From basic bricklaying to building arches in a week

As well as building bridges among his staff, David Hughes is helping to boost job prospects in the building trades.

In four of the five counties that make up the East Midlands region, a strong emphasis has been placed on gearing up skills for the construction industry.

The East Midlands Construction Forum has been set up to engage employers and deliver construction skills in the region.

The forum is chaired by John Kirkland. As well as being chairman of Bowmer and Kirkland, the largest privately-owned construction firm in the country with an annual turnover of pound;500 million, he is also the chairman of Derbyshire learning and skills council.

Four colleges - two in Derby, two in Nottingham - have joined to form a Centre of Vocational Excellence in construction that crosses county borders.

Mr Hughes sees this trans-county cluster model being repeated across the region.

"Now that I'm in the regional director's role I will roll this out in more sectors with clusters of colleges," he said.

Mr Hughes is optimistic about a "fast track" pilot project that was launched this year by Derby college to address the region's shortage of bricklayers. Twenty people began a 13-week course in January.

"Derby college have got an approach which they think is unique," he said.

"Instead of working on theory, students began laying bricks from the very first minute, and by the end of the first week they have already started building walls and arches.

"By the end of week two they are good enough to go out and work on a building site.

"There is an enormous amount going on that gives me enormous optimism for the ability of the LSC to deliver on the skills agenda."

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