Trainee tilers to compete for national title at The Skills Show

The best trainee tile fixers from across the UK will be competing for the national title at this year’s Skills Show in November. The Tile Association is the lead competition supplier for the wall and floor tiling competition and is providing the prizes for the gold, silver and bronze medal winners.

The Skills Show is the UK’s leading skills and careers event for young people and takes place from 19th to 21st November at the NEC in Birmingham. The wall and floor tiling competition is one of 60 trade finals being held.

Regional heats have taken place at colleges across the UK this year under the watchful eye of Dave Rowley from BAL, chairman of the TTA’s supply chain training committee.

Finalists now move on to the national event at The Skills Show, where they will aim to become UK champion. Those who excel may be selected to train in Squad UK to represent their country at WorldSkills Abu Dhabi 2017.

Tiling companies are also doing their bit to support the competition and the finalists.

As well as a cheque from the TTA, medal winners will also receive a Bellotta Pro 55 Tile Cutter.

BAL is providing the adhesives for the competition, with tiles supplied by Johnson Tiles and trims by Schluter. Suretile, meanwhile, is supplying a Tiletracker system for each finalist, which they will be able to keep after the event.

Each finalist will receive a toolbag — if your company would like to donate items to go in it, please email as soon as possible.

There is lots more information about this year’s Skills Show at


To find out more about how we’re supporting the tilers of tomorrow click here.

House building pushes UK construction sector growth to seven-month high

The fastest rise in residential house building for 12 months has pushed growth in the UK construction sector to a seven-month high.

The Markit/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index hit 59.9 in September, up on 57.3 in August, and against a no-change reading of 50.House building was the best performing category, which some survey respondents attributed to the launch of projects that had been delayed earlier in 2015, while both the commercial and civil engineering categories expanded.

However, the increase in new work was the slowest for five months, though construction companies remained upbeat about their prospects for the next year.

Subcontractor charges continued to rise sharply, though the rate of inflation eased slightly from the record highs earlier in the year.

There was the least marked deterioration in supplier performance for almost five years, which some firms linked to greater stocks at vendors, and the rate of input price inflation eased to a five-month low.

David Noble, group CEO, CIPS, said: “Issues around skills shortages continued to be a drag on the sector with the resultant demand for higher salaries from the smaller pool of skilled staff. Companies reported higher staffing levels but it was a continuing challenge to find specialist skills as they struggled to rely less on subcontractors to fill the gaps.

“Lower fuel and raw material costs helped margins even in a landscape of strong competition. Levels of output were robust and increased at the fastest pace for over six months.”

Tim Moore, senior economist at Markit, said: “While the latest survey provides positive news on construction output, jobs and supply chains, there was a warning light flashing in terms of total new orders. Construction companies have recorded a steady slowdown in new business growth from June’s post-election peak and the latest upturn was the second slowest since mid 2013.”


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Burntwood School wins 2015 Stirling Prize

The 2015 RIBA Stirling prize has been awarded to Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM) architects for Burntwood School. AHMM’s transformation of Burntwood School is said to reimagine a 1950s modernist secondary school campus for 2,000 girls and 200 staff. It was selected from a shortlist of six finalists.

The Stirling Prize is the UK’s most prestigious architecture award and is “presented to the architects of the building that has made the greatest contribution to the evolution of architecture in the past year.” Among the criteria taken into account are a building’s design vision, innovation and originality, capacity to stimulate, engage and delight occupants and visitors, accessibility and sustainability, how fit the building is for its purpose and the level of client satisfaction.

Now in it’s 20th year, the Stirling prize was last year awarded to Haworth Tompkins for the Liverpool Everyman Theatre. AHMM has been shortlisted for the award three times previously, for Westminster Academy (2008), Kentish Town Health Centre (2009) and for the Angel Building, London (2011). This year, however, is the first time the firm has won.

“Schools can and should be more than just practical, functional buildings, they need to elevate the aspirations of children, teachers and the wider community,” says director of AHMM Paul Monaghan. “Good school design makes a difference to the way students value themselves and their education, and we hope that Burntwood winning the RIBA Stirling Prize shows that this is worth investing in.”

Burntwood is located in the Wandsworth area of London, UK. It mixes contemporary design and six new buildings with the older, existing buildings. As well as applauding this approach, the judges commended the “superb integration of artwork, landscaping and engineering” and “its use of prefabrication, its low-energy strategy and the minimal disruption to teachers and pupils during construction.”

The £40.9 million (US$63.2 million) project boasts four new four-story teaching pavilions, a new sports hall and a new performing arts building. The new buildings are said to be placed among the existing ones in such a way as to create a complete and coherent campus.

Described by RIBA as “a very sculptural building,” Burntwood now has a range of education spaces, including conventional classrooms and interactive open spaces. AHMM employed double height spaces at the end of each corridor to bring natural light into the building and to create well-framed views. The firm is also said to have worked closely with an artist to produce large, colorful murals that act as both signposting and modern art.

The other buildings on the shortlist were Niall McLaughlin Architects’ Darbishire Place, Reiach and Hall Architects’ Maggie’s Cancer Care Centre, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners’ NEO Bankside housing, Heneghan Peng architects University of Greenwich Stockwell Street Building and MUMA’s The Whitworth. The presentation event was held at the RIBA in London,


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Think-tank calls for £500m FE funding boost

A think-tank report funded by the construction industry is calling for the government to shift £500m of funding from universities to further education colleges to promote technical education.

The authors recommend that further education get the same treatment as higher education, with the same student loan regime.

The report – Higher, Further, Faster, More: Improving higher level professional and technical education  – is written by Policy Exchange and funded by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) and Wates Construction.

It says that funding for higher education institutions (universities) has increased markedly since the introduction of tuition fees, with a rise in overall income of 26% since 2009/10. As a result, universities are sitting on £12.3bn of unrestricted reserves – worth around 48% of the entire annual budget for the HE sector. By contrast, further education colleges have seen a significant drop in their revenue, with the adult skills budget having been cut by 24% since 2009-10. According to the National Audit Office, more than one in four of the entire FE college network could go bankrupt within a year.

The report calls for the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) to redirect up to £532m of the Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) grant to improve the quality of higher level technical qualification on offer at FE colleges, national colleges and institutes of technology. Any remaining grant funding should be directed towards universities with the smallest financial reserves.

The report also proposes an expansion of the university student loan system, as well as the introduction of maintenance support, to FE students. This would mean that for the first time all young people will have equal access to finance to support further study, whether they choose a university or a high quality technical pathway

Other recommendations include:

•          The ability for the new institutes of technology, announced in the government’s recent productivity plan, to award their own technical degrees rather than have to partner with a university

•          The expansion of industrial partnership bodies – groups of employers in specific sectors – to be the main route to design and approve all new technical qualifications, including higher level apprenticeships

Jonathan Simons, head of education at Policy Exchange, said: “The UK is home to world beating universities that we should all be proud of. But as well as degrees, we also need many more people with high class technical and professional skills – and that means a flourishing further education system. It is clear that higher education is significantly better funded than its further education counterpart. Universities have substantial cash reserves which could be much better utilised than sitting in banks. That is why we think a proportion of the government grant to universities should be reallocated towards offering more students higher level technical qualifications at further education institutions, and why the student loan system should be expanded so that young people have access to finance to support their higher level study whichever route they choose.”

CITB policy director Steve Radley said: “This report offers a radical rethink of the way education funding is allocated. The UK lags behind the rest of the world in terms of how many of us undertake vocational education after secondary school. Just 10% of 25-40 year olds in the UK have a post-secondary vocational qualification, which pales in comparison to the US where 22% of the labour force has similar qualifications. Industry needs a reformed FE sector to provide the skills needed for productivity and growth. It is vital that we find the most effective way for FE to deliver this.”

Wates strategy director Steve Beechey said: “Without substantial investment many of the FE colleges will, and in some cases already are, failing to offer the education that the construction industry requires in order to continue to thrive and support the UK economy.  We need to invest in people and training to ensure the future labour pool, without doing so, we run the risk of derailing our countries recovery and future success.”


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