I had a very interesting visit round the building site of the new City (formerly Castle) College on Friday. It really will be an impressive building when it’s finished. The atrium will be cathedral like in its proportions, and reminds me of Sheffield’s other excellent piece of modern architecture, the Winter Gardens. The new nursery is already in action- you may have noticed the new green roofed building near the tram stop, whose roof changes colour with the seasons.Other parts of the new college are due to open very soon. This will allow for some of the current buildings like the canteen, to be demolished, so the new build can progress nearer Granville Road. Green features such as the wind turbines and the sedum roof are going ahead as planned. The toilets will be flushed with rainwater, collected in tanks underneath the building. This system will be connected to a new lake, very near Granville Road. This will be one of the last features to be built, along with the new sports hall.
The new facilities for training in catering look magnificent and should make City College the leading institution in the country for aspiring chefs. What disappoints me is there is no sign yet of an expansion in the curriculum in the vital area of green technology. If this country is to lead the fight against climate change we should be training an army of plumbers,planners, builders etc with the skills the country needs to fit renewable energy like solar panels, ground source heat pumps and wind turbines. Retrofitting our current housing stock with insulation, so that it at least meets current building regulations (which are in themselves far too lax) is a vital job our current builders are not currently trained to do. If you want to find out how to make your house more energy efficient, visit the South Yorkshire Energy Centre at Heeley City Farm where you will find comprehensive information- but if you don’t want to “do it yourself” you may have great difficulty in finding a builder who understands how to make a 1900’s terrace house with no cavity walls energy efficient. So I hope the Learning and Skills Council will soon realise that we have a massive training gap and encourage the FE Colleges to start to fill it. And I hope the Government will start to splash some of the dosh it seems all too happy to bail out the banks with, in investing in a sustainable future for our country.