College and Cheshire Wildlife Trust come together for innovative project

Construction students from Cheshire College – South & West’s Chester campus are working on an innovative project upgrading an old barn into a new workshop facility for Cheshire Wildlife Trust.

Cheshire Wildlife Trust initially approached a group of joinery students about creating bespoke furniture from trade waste such as scaffolding and pallets. This soon developed into a bigger project involving the entire construction department including students from joinery, bricklaying, electrical, plumbing, painting and decorating and civil engineering courses.

Sam Salisbury, Corporate Partnerships manager at Cheshire Wildlife Trust commented: “We saw an opportunity to work with the College in what could be a mutually beneficial experience. Initially we had planned for the College to help us produce some furniture, however when we met the students and saw them in action with their passion for the project, we soon considered a longer-term arrangement with the implementation of additional works to our barn at Bickley Hall Farm.

“This is ideal for the Trust as it will upgrade a much-needed workshop facility for us, as well as providing important work experience for the students.  We’re excited by how this is coming together already and look forward to seeing the final results.”

Students studying at all levels are now involved with the transformation of the old barn, which will be used by the Trust to host business away-days and other events. The project provides hands-on experience as part of teaching and learning sessions as well as valuable practical involvement.

Richard Lunt, Assistant Director of Engineering and Construction at Cheshire College – South & West added: “It has been a true collaboration across various departments, with input on design, construction, build and everything in-between.

“Undertaking this work has really inspired our students in their chosen field of work and given them valuable experience of real situations. The College is delighted to be working alongside the Cheshire Wildlife Trust and our sponsors AKD. It’s an unusual job but the students are absolutely loving the variety it brings and the full experience.

“We have a classroom all set up at the base, so we are able to run through the formal aims and objectives in parallel with completion of the physical work.

“This kind of project is exactly what we want to be providing for our learners. It’s just as important to get out of the classroom and into the real working world. For entry level and level one students especially, they have been thrown straight into this, learning on the job and developing their multi-skills, so a great way for them to develop.”

Students have been involved right from the initial stages of the barn transformation, which is situated at Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s headquarters at Bickley Hall Farm near Malpas. They wrote the conditions survey, created plans and reviewed structural reports. They even put together a programme of work that needed to be executed in order to transform the tired barn into a fit for purpose workshop facility that will provide essential training, whilst serving as a vital social hub for the local community. Once the initial reviews and schedules were completed, students got to work on stripping it back and starting afresh. It is a rolling-project with more additions being made along the way and expected completion due at the end of the academic year.

The project also has the full support of AKD, Electricians and Electrical Contractors based in Cheshire, a key industry partner and College sponsor.

Damian Parkin, Director of AKD said: “We are regular guest lecturers at the College, so we knew it would be a joy to work on this project, in conjunction with Cheshire Wildlife Trust, given the calibre of students involved.

“We’ve thoroughly enjoyed being part of this journey and helping the students along the way. It’s immensely valuable to have the hands-on experience and I have no doubt that the students will improve vastly within the practical areas of their courses. It also very rewarding for us to witness the students developing over the weeks and I know the team at AKD are delighted to have supported the team and the project.”